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Book Review: TargetedTargeted: How Technology Is Revolutionizing Advertising and the Way Companies Reach Consumers by Mike Smith
Published by AMACOM/American Management Association on November 19th 2014
Pages: 208
Source: NetGalley
Buy on Amazon

I told a friend I was reading Targeted by Mike Smith. She asked “how could you write a book on SEM? Search engine marketing moves too fast”. She’s right.

Targeted was a NetGalley offering I pounced on. Targeting has been a marketing game changer in the last ten years, and something we’re still trying to understand and perfect. The blurb was also exactly what I needed:
“Part history, part guidebook, part prediction for the future, Targeted tells the story of the companies, individuals, and innovations driving this revolution. It takes readers behind the scenes—examining the growth of digital advertising, its enormous potential, and the technologies that are changing the game forever. Leading the way is real-time bidding, which offers advertisers unprecedented precision in targeting ads and measuring their effectiveness.”

Unfortunately, Targeted didn’t correspond to this descriptor.

What is Targeted about?

Targeted is part history. The first 56% tells the story of how search engine marketing developed. It includes elevator conversations with Jeff Bezos and the personalities that developed the technology in the ad auctions. The second half turns to digital marketing platforms while keeping the verbose narrative style. It’s very word-heavy with minimal statistics and images to break it up. Images may have been added to the final copy, but it was a nearly finished e-ARC, so I don’t think so.

There isn’t much to discuss about the first half. It’s well-written and very well researched. But it is a personal history of one narrow digital marketing tactic. I also suspect there’s either a little animosity against Google or it’s just dated. AdWords and AdSense were barely mentioned. About 45% in there was a descriptor of what I suspect is AdSense, but I was already skimming by then.

The second half (from chapter 10 on) is the discussion of digital marketing platforms. Chapter 10 looks at the need for data; 11 is on privacy and 12 details new technologies. It’s all very fluffy, and a bit outdated. I was later proven wrong but one of my notes did ask if it was a subsequent edition because the most recent date reference at that stage was mid-2012. There was one example of effectively targeting in the privacy chapter, albeit not related to SEM or advertising. A privacy advocate graduate student merged data from several public sources to identify the then governor, William Weld’s health information. Governor Weld was in office in the mid-90s.

Targeted’s section on new technologies was just as dated. I was working with HTML 5 as a mobile app replacement two years ago, but Mike claims it hasn’t been accepted. Tablet usage stats are more than a year out-of-date, and the digital television discussion forgets to mention the decreasing number of people with cable. Yes, technology does allow for more choice within a household, but fewer households are choosing to use that medium.

Who is Targeted for?

Targeted is really two books. If you’re in the search engine marketing industry and want to know the stories that lead to the current technologies, read the first nine chapters. If you’re very out-of-touch and needing to get to know what digital marketing platforms are available for creative ad placements, then check out the last three chapters. Unfortunately, if you want to learn SEM or how to target your customers better, you won’t get it here. Google offers some great resources for free.

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