Well Phorm'ed Campaigns are Not Evil (and neither are cookies)

Updated (28th July 2008): Thank you to everyone for their comments, this is clearly a contentious issue.

At the moment, as an advertiser, the opportunities that Phorm present are interesting. After all, we are always looking for better ways to target advertising to consumsers on behalf of our clients. Consumer opinion is critical though, and will ultimately determine the success or failure of Phorm through direct action or by them walking away from their ISP. This is a very healthy situation. Phorm are planning on offering 'freebies' in exchange for opting in.

Phorm won't be for everyone, but as everyone has their price, I am sure that they may achieve the critical mass to become useful to advertisers and agencies. Only time will tell if that is the case and I am sure it will be a fierce debate in the interim. Just take a look at the comments this post is receiving to get a sense of the passion that people quite rightfully have for their future privacy. Therefore something like this must be on an opt-in basis.

I have Phorm coming into the offices to discuss their offering in more detail and dependant on the nature of the discussions re confidentiality then I will feedback thoughts at that time.

Original Post:

BT recently announced that they would be trialling the Phorm ad network on their ISP back end, and join the ranks of Virgin Media and Talk Talk from Carphone Warehouse.

Put simply, Phorm is an ad network that works by recording the pages that ISP customers visit and then serving ads that are more relevant to that user. They use a sophisticated system of unique code numbers as apposed to identifiable consumer data, and will categorise the sites visited in pre-determined buckets.

But there has been consumer backlash, most recently highlighted in a New Media Age survey. It states that 65% of UK adults would leave their

ISP if it adopted ISP-based behavioural targeting, and 81% wanted the ability to opt-out.

But I think consumers may have got the perception wrong, or have not digested both sides. [edited]

There are a multitude of software vendors that sell tools to remove cookies from your computer, like they were an evil plague. But cookies are used for a variety of applications, and in the context of advertising help the user to have a better experience by targeting more appropriate ads.

This is exactly the business that Phorm is in, they are just monitoring and serving using better technology. Consumers need to realise that advertising pays for most things they do online. Advertising online is not going to disappear. Advertising is not an evil entity, and as such isn't it more useful or enjoyable for them to at least be shown campaigns that are relevant to them?

What's more, consumers are already happily engaging this advertising of this type. Visit any major ecommerce site and you will be shown products that best match your purchasing history.

Amazon led the way on this? Is Amazon evil too?

Smarter Display is Possible

Feeling dirty?