Yesterday, the New York Times published an article about the dirty little secret behind "cookies," the files that many online advertisers, publishers, and advertising networks drop onto users' hard drives.
Such cookies can admittedly be useful to consumers (cookies help prevent you from having to log in to the same site over and over and over again), as well as to businesses trying to ascertain the number of "unique visitors" who visit their site.
But as the Times' article points out, the online ad measurement cookie starts to crumble before even getting out of the oven. Why?
Geeks like me delete their cookies on a fairly regular basis. Some 7.1 percent of geeks, according to a comScore panel survey conducted late last year.
We're known as "serial deleters" (I'm not even going to go there), but unfortunately for advertisers, we account for a "grossly disproportionate" share of the ad server traffic, having received some 35.3 percent of the total number of cookies observed in the study.
So after reading this piece yesterday, I laughed out loud today when I saw this Wall Street Journal article today about "behavioral targeting" (registration required).
In summary, the article explains how many big advertisers are turning to behavioral targeting -- using cookie-based targeting across a large swath of different Web sites to try and target a specific demography with online ads -- to try and create more efficient and effective online advertising buys.
The problem is, they're very likely way overcounting the number of actual unique visitors out there, which means advertisers are paying to reach a bunch of "unique visitors" who aren't very unique at all!
Turbo Thought: Target geeks like me who frequently delete their cookies. Even though every other demography you're targeting could be completely miscalculated due to this 30+ percentage differential, you'll know for sure you're getting to the "serial deleter" demographic!
Fresh cookies all around!
All of this becomes even more amusing when you think about the size of the recent deals in this space -- Google paying $3.1B for DoubleClick, Microsoft acquiring aQuantive for $6 billion, WPP paying $649 million for 24/7 -- businesses all apparently constructed atop a fragile cookie measurement foundation.
As Cookie Monster himself would say, "Me love Santa's cookies!"
And Google's, and DoubleClicks, and everybody else's!!!
Cookies everywhere and all over the world and for everybody!!!