Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA) - QRCA Views Magazine, Fall 2021

The ads (or posts) are “dark” to anyone not in the targeted campaign and dark to their competition. It relies on precise targeting methods to create the most personalized advertisements possible and, at the same time, makes it difficult for brands to gain a comprehensive view of their competitors’ tactics and positions. This is a huge advantage as competitors will not be able to analyze and act upon a brand’s advertising data and strategies, hence hindering them from developing a counterattack. For example, they will not be able to see the types of ads running, geographic or demographic targeting, the products and services being pitched, or any new or seasonal promotions being offered. Dark Ads Are Not Dark Social Dark ads are a type of ad format. In contrast, dark social refers to the sharing of content by consumers themselves (e.g., sharing links to specific products/ services) by using one’s private channels, such as direct messaging and email applications. These shares are considered dark because they are shared in channels that don’t reveal themselves to web analytics platforms. The challenge with dark social is that the traffic shows up as “direct traffic” in your web analytics tool, so it leaves you in the dark as to where that traffic is coming from. For example, let’s say that you are shopping for athletic wear, and you come across a new product or a great deal. This product or deal is so good that you decide to share it with your private running group on Facebook. So, you copy the link to the item and paste it into your private group’s chat. Now everyone in this group sees your link that you can’t track. Why should you care? Because these types of shares are trusted more by consumers because they come from a friend or someone in their group and thus, are more relevant to them. Typically, when something is more relevant, the intent to take action increases. Kind of Cool, Kind of Creepy Think about something that you searched for on your phone, mentioned in an email, or looked at on Amazon (e.g., a specific pair of shoes). You may start to notice those shoes “following you around the internet” via ads for those shoes appearing on your social media feeds and other websites, such as news sites. Sounds cool (to marketers) and sounds creepy (to those being followed). This is called “Retargeting”—there’s more about this in the four principles of dark marketing on page 18. The creepy aspect of this tends to be tied to tracking personal data, which causes some to question if marketing personalization is ethical. 1 “There will be a constant battle between personalization and privacy, and marketers need to know a bit about the risks,” said Anna Loverus, digital strategist and behavioral scientist at H&M. This holds especially true if people are being targeted by their sensitive data such as health and politics. Once ads start to feel intrusive or inappropriate to people, they will not engage with those ads, and they won’t buy those products or services. Don’t Be Left in the Dark about “Dark Marketing” D ark marketing, or dark advertising, is a type of online advertising visible only to the advertiser’s publisher and the intended target audience. In the early 2010s, dark marketing emerged as a new way to target potential customers through targeted ads, primarily within social media platforms. A decade later, it has evolved into a powerful tool offering marketers unprecedented marketing opportunities by giving them more of a laser-focused approach versus a shotgun approach. 16 QRCA VIEWS FALL 2021 www.qrca.org n TRENDS n