Struq, an exciting start-up about which I’ve written before elsewhere, just launched its online advertising platform, promising hyper-targeted ads based on prior behavior but without, or so it claims, the privacy violations ascribed to the ill-fated Phorm. “Unlike Phorm,” CEO Sam Barnett told me back in June, “We don’t partner with ISPs and we don’t use ‘deep packet inspection’. We use standard cookies and work with websites that allow users to opt out of our service, enabling us to both protect user privacy and deliver relevant content that adds value to users.”
While Google can only show you a static ad based on browser history, Struq allows advertisers to serve up ads containing specific offers in real time based on users’ behaviour: “We don’t serve up static ads. You get the exact product, offer and price you were interested in,” says Barnett. So, for example, Struq can take you not just to the BA website, but to the exact offer you were looking at on a previous occasion (say, if you’d left off mid-transaction).
The challenge for Struq will be to dodge accusations of “snooping” on users. Sure, its technology doesn’t use deep packet inspection, but will the average user, on hearing that Struq monitors his behaviour, consider that any better? Who knows. The deciding factor may end up being the quality (ie, relevancy) of the ads that get served up. If they’re genuinely valuable to users – something Phorm’s “victims” seemed not to agree on – Struq could do very well indeed. Its competitors, who include Criteo, Teracent and Tumri, will be watching closely.