End of last year I had an e-mail conversation with a friend on how we would spend new year's eve. And in Gmail, next to the conversation, I got an ad for an industrial compressor company (in french). As I was not planning to install an inflatable pool on the 31st of December, so I left the ad where it was. The other adds were for an Indian webdesign shop, a DNA test and a marriage proposal for African women. These too I classified as "Advertising SPAM", and started wondering, what the hell are these advertisers doing?

Google, and more and more online advertising solutions, allow the use of keywords to make our ads more relevant for the consumer. In practice however we see that at least half of keyword based ads are totally irrelevant. Either you look for a subject that is so popular the paid results are simply copy of the yellow pages, for unpopular subjects you get a automatically generated add by eBay which has nothing to do with what you're looking for.
Fans of "Behavioral targeting" - presenting ads based on you surfing behavior - want to put an end to this. Visita number of car-sites and then go an buy a book on raising kids and ... you get an add for the latest family car. That's the theory behind this smart form of spam. But judging from Google's performance, not just anybody in this field, I'm afraid we're a long way from this ideal world, if we ever see it.

Individual thoughts and behaviors are not so easily boxed in numbers and statistics. People decide themselves where they direct their attention to, that's why on-demand channels like RSS feeds and podcasts, and how your site performs in search engines is so much more important pseudi-scientific advertising mumbo-jumbo. Make sure all your communication is clear and easily accessible, "web usability" is not something invented by a bunch of freaks but an essential component of your communication strategy. Communicate clearly, no hollow slogans or creativity for the sake of creativity but intelligent creations that trigger the correct ideas with consumers.
Campaigns are great, but they have to fit in a long term program with the objective to engage consumers for your brand. Brands have to take a position, claim a territory or values they can live up to in the long run.

In that way you practice "Natural Behavioural Targeting". Your public discovers your brand in a natural way? They ask the car-freak in the family which model is a good choice, talk to other parents about baby food and read the gadget fan's blog before buying a new smart phone. The natural social behavior of people leads them to the most relevant source of information. And it's up to the brands to feed these sources with relevant and honest information.