Tighter Targeting Doesn’t Mean Better Persuasion

“The weakness of modern strategy is that it is too reliant on technology.  The triumph of accuracy of outputs with no impact on outcomes”.  Hidden Histories GPS BBC.

I am sometimes asked about how programmatic will transform advertising.  Clearly a benefit of programmatic is pinpoint accuracy and the reduction of wastage.  But when we consider how it will transform advertising strategy overall we can look to the impact of GPS on military strategy as a related world.

I love my GPS.  My relationship with GPS did get off to a rocky start as I tended to take the bossy voice of the navigator too literally and was directed across a river in full flood down in Cornwall once.  Common sense prevailed but it was a disappointment.  Now I wouldn’t be without it and thanks to Google Maps on my phone can rely on not getting lost anywhere I go.

Soldiers used to have to find their way around using a compass and a map.  The first satellite navigation system Transit was used by the United States Navy in 1960.

The development of GPS came about on a Labor Day weekend in 1973 when a meeting of twelve military officers at the Pentagon discussed the creation of a Defense Navigation Satellite System (DNSS). It was at this meeting that “the real synthesis that became GPS was created.”  But it is President Reagan who we must thank for its everyday use in stopping us losing our way.

For years it was a military system only but after a tragic incident when a Korean Air Lines Flight carrying 269 people was shot down in 1983, when it strayed into the USSR’s prohibited airspace, President Ronald Reagan issued a directive making GPS freely available for civilian use, once it was sufficiently developed, as a common good.

It is still of course used in military circumstances and as we know from the current series of Homeland is used to pinpoint accuracy for the deployment of drones.

So technology has massively improved the accuracy of targeting.  But as the comment opening this blog points out, it has done nothing to improve the persuasion of opponents to a different point of view.

What is the objective of military strategy? Usually it is a good peace. More accurate missiles are clearly a great thing in the short term.  Winning only comes about if we convince the opponent to a different point of view.

Convincing the potential consumer of a brand of our point of view is of course a major part of advertising strategy.  More accurate targeting via programmatic is a good thing. It is only important if we can persuade the consumer of a brand’s point of view at the same time.


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