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Following is an attempt to explain the experiment:

Our research group started studying Internet marketing and web based advertising in 1994. Within the first day of our experiment, information about viewership started pouring in. We understood the severe consequences that might result from our behavior. In particular, we realized it was our responsibility to take precautions to protect against the misuse of that information.

Since that time, a whole industry has grown out of that dichotomy -- how does an advertising agent best serve two masters? In many ways, this question has has had a huge impact on business ethics. On the surface, it might appear as though the two goals are polar opposites:

1) deliver the client's message as efficiently as possible
2) do not invade the consumers' privacy nor threaten their security

We have spent quite a bit of time, money and effort trying to solve this puzzle. In the end, a perfect solution may not be obtainable. However, the process of attempting to optimize marketing does yield many benefits along the way.

Business Processes And Industrial Secrets
There was much debate whether to publish any of this information. Would our competitors just use it to our disadvantage? After careful consideration, limited dissemination seemed to be in the best interest of the publics welfare. If the advertising industry could develop business processes that best served both the client and the consumer, the industry could flourish creating plenty of room for everyone to prosper.

The Benefits Of Advertising
How could anything the advertising industry do be of benefit? When surveyed, most people have a negative connotation of the word "advertising." This is really too bad because effective advertising is actually quite beneficial.

Benefits Of Advertising To The Consumer

  • Information
  • Save Time
  • Save Money
  • Helps Provide Quality Consistency and Satisfaction
  • Helps Companies Compete Resulting in Lower Prices

"If I were starting life over again, I am inclined to think that I would go into the advertising business in preference to almost any other. The general raising of the standards of modern civilization among all groups of people during the past half century would have been impossible without the spreading of the knowledge of higher standards by means of advertising."
-- Franklin D. Roosevelt, U.S. President (ironically made during the 20th Century's greatest financial crisis, 1932-1944).

Billboards Along The Information Superhighway
Advertisements on the Internet have the potential to be the most efficient and beneficial to society. Instead of mass marketing being pushed upon people, it is possible for targeted marketing to reach exactly the people looking for it. The difficulty with making this dream a reality rests with a consumer's privacy and security. The more information a business has about the needs and wants of a potential consumer, then the better the business can supply relevant information that person. On the other hand, the more individualized information a business acquires, then the easy it becomes for someone to exploit the person's privacy and security.

As an example, let's consider a typical "free" email service. Joe Consumer signs up for free email. In exchange, Joe agrees to accept commercial messages. The email service analyzes Joe's email usage and determines the most effect advertisements to serve Joe. On the positive side, Joe is provided targeted information that raises his awareness and helps save him time and money. On the down side, Joe's personal information may be intentionally shared with third parties. Or worse, Joe's personal information could not be properly secured and stolen by a third party.

In fact, the practice of collecting individualized consumer behavior data has led to a surge in identity theft and computer espionage.

The Briceless Experiment
With all this in mind, we wanted to conduct a marketing research and development project -- a marketing experiment that attempts to fulfill customers' needs without violating human rights.

Before going on to the details of the experiment, more in-depth background information is available:

The Basics Of A Business Website
What Is Advertising?
What Is Marketing?
Web Traffic & Audience Share
Faults With Counting Internet & Website Traffic
Push Vs. Pull Technologies
Search Engine Optimization
Website Accessibility

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