The growth of Internet business is being held back by customer doubts in key areas, claims Kevin O'Connor, chief executive of online advertising tracking firm Doubleclick, who set out to dispel some of the myths at the Online Developers' Show in San Francisco yesterday.
In a keynote address, O'Connor raised a number of issues that he said were acting as a barrier to greater exploitation of the Internet as a business platform. He pointed particularly to the field of targeted advertising, whose potential as the most direct and global medium has only been partially realised. "The Internet is the only medium where the fundamental problems of advertising can be solved," he argued.
O'Connor illustrated his claim by noting that there are various sophisticated customer targeting methods that were enabled by the Internet. It was, for example, possible to conduct psychographic profiles of user behaviour, demographic profiles and, most controversially, lifestyle profiles.
The concern among end users about all this data collection is supposedly privacy, he observed, but claimed that it was actually the media who were concerned about this, not customers. O'Connor claimed that his company has only received about 50 complaints about the five million or so adverts it has handled.
As long as there are clear cut policies governing the use of collected data there should be no problem, he insisted. Examples of such policies include insisting that data must be of practical use in making sure that potential customers are effectively targeted with relevant advertising material; providing an opt-out facility to customers at all stages; and examination of the uses to which data is put by external auditors, such as Price Waterhouse or Coopers & Lybrand.
He dismissed the idea that the Internet in itself is an over-hyped phenomenon, arguing that it is the products and suppliers that operate on the Net that are guilty of being over-hyped and over-hyping. "The world has never seen a bigger medium than the Internet," he argued. "It beats everything that has gone before it in terms of penetration and growth."
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