Opinion: Web users don't like to feel they're being tracked

Opinion: Web users don't like to feel they're being tracked

Travel ads that follow consumers across the internet may backfire, says Steve Dunne, executive chairman of Brighter Group

Have you ever been followed by someone, unable to shake off their attentions no matter how much you move away from them?

Would it annoy you if it happened constantly? I suspect it would.

Yet many travel brands are risking damaging their reputation on the internet by behaving exactly like this.

I discovered this marketing phenomenon the other day as I was doing some research on the web.

I recently went online and visited the website of a cruise line for the first time to check something out.

A few days later I was on Google. I had been commissioned to interview a famous person for a conference, so I researched them online.

Tapping his name into the search engine returned a number of results. 
I also noticed a vaguely familiar logo. 
It was that cruise line.

The first link took me through to The Telegraph’s website. There was an article about my subject, but my eye was drawn to the banner advertisement above it and a picture of a ship and that logo again.

Feel like you’re being followed?

I moved on to the Independent’s site, but before I could even look for my subject’s name my eye was drawn to the banner and yes, there was that logo.

Several more website visits followed the same pattern – the subject of my research was overshadowed by the cruise line’s logo.

I headed for Dailymotion, a rival service to YouTube, and there on the screen was a clip of my interviewee.

As the interview unfolded I listened to what my man had to say, but in the corner of my eye I caught sight of something familiar. It was a logo. Was it the logo of the brand that had followed me across a dozen random websites? It couldn’t be – they can’t advertise on every website I visit.

My eyes started to move away from the clip of my man being interviewed. There was nothing I could do about it; they were drawn slowly to the ad in some hypnotic way and my eyes gradually swept across the Silversea Cruises advertisement.

By now Silversea and its ad had followed me everywhere. How could I get away from it?

I headed for the search engine Bing, tapping in the most random subject I could think of – Irish genealogy.

I went to page two of Irish genealogy returns and randomly hit a link to a website called Rootschat.ie.

And there it was, large and bold, set among the text about genealogy issues – the Silversea advertisement.

Beware of the drawbacks

Digital marketers call this tactic retargeting. It’s a form of online advertising that can help a brand stay in front of bounced traffic after a consumer leaves its website.

It’s a technique that is growing rapidly in the travel sector.

But for me it is a tactic that has its drawbacks. It may keep your brand in front of the consumer constantly but it can be more than a bit unnerving and may backfire.

Perhaps this latest marketing trend could benefit from listening to the oldest marketing adage of all: sometimes less is more.

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