How do they get relevant advertising?
What me makes laugh more about the irrelevant advertising argument is that they somehow think they are able to target us with relevant advertising. Just because I may have visited a site about motorbikes doesn't mean that I want to see adverts for anything bike related in future visits. Isn't this still irrelevant advertising just in another form?
I personally have nothing against low key advertising on sites that provide a service to me for free, as long as it has something to do with the site that I am visiting. For example being on El Reg I would expect to see advertising for computer related stuff, and that is pretty much what we get. Isn't this as targeted as what Phorm are offering and without having to analyse all our traffic and potentially invading privacy?
I have worked indirectly in online advertising and have found that relevant advertising is the most appropriate form. If you run a games site, your target audience is likely young teens. Advertise related products in an appropriate way and you will get a much better response that bombarding users with irrelevant adverts. I worked for one company where our target audience were young teenagers and yet almost every advert was for home insurance, car insurance, life insurance etc and they then wondered why they were getting such awful responses. Then every now and then we had an advert related to this age group and the response was amazing.
I think the way forward are those advertising exchanges that allow you to negotiate with web masters who run sites that are your likely audience. You definitely do not need to monitor peoples traffic to target adverts. Won't the Phorm system only do the same thing anyway but one step behind? If I just visited a website for fish and then go to a website for computers, wouldn't the system show me adverts related to fish based on my past request? Then on the next site show me adverts for computers? I agree that it may be more advanced than that, but in principle it must be the same. This is not particularly targeted advertising is it?