Bernardi C & Mendieta C (2021) Micro-targeting and non-profit marketing: loss of serendipity or effective strategy?. In: Karpasitis C (ed.) Proceedings of the 8th European Conference on Social Media. 8th European Conference on Social Media, Larnaca, Cyprus, 01.07.2021-02.07.2021. Reading: Academic Conferences International, pp. 41-49. https://www.academic-bookshop.com/ourshop/prod_7595397-ECSM-2021-Proceedings-of-the-8th-European-Conference-on-Social-Media.html
This paper presents a novel understanding of programmatic advertising and micro targeting in the context of non-profit and voluntary sector marketing. It argues that while these types of automated tactics are met with resistance in current research, they can aid effective non-profit marketing strategy. The critiques moved to these tactics are twofold: programmatic advertising cause loss of organic discovery of information, or loss of serendipity; programmatic ads delivered to specific target audiences can be used to spread fake news and influence decision-making. The Cambridge Analytica scandal is perhaps the best example of how these tactics can be unethically employed to manipulate behaviour. The paper critically engages with these critiques and argues that, used effectively, programmatic advertising and micro-targeting can drive more effective results and advance non-profit and voluntary-sector marketing. Building upon human information behaviour the paper produces a model to unpack the logics behind these tactics and identify best practices to employ them for non-profit marketing. The model is tested through the distribution of a digital serious game and an evaluative questionnaire designed in collaboration with multiple small third sector stakeholders to raise awareness about economic abuse and inform about available support in Scotland. The results demonstrate that the model effectively reflects users’ behaviours when exposed to programmatically delivered messages. As such, the paper discusses that programmatic advertising and micro-targeting offer opportunities to the third sector, but a strong understanding of content and the algorithmic logics of programmatic distribution are needed to maximise marketing efforts. The paper wants to contribute new understandings of programmatic advertising and micro-targeting and enrich literature in the context of non-profit and institutional marketing.