Archive for January 22nd, 2008

This is a hot buzzphrase and has been for 5 or 6 years in online advertising.

As one company puts it:

“Behavioral targeting allows marketers to respond to identified consumer behaviors and gives them the ability to deliver “timely” messaging in an environment outside of where the behavior was captured.

What this means to advertisers is that they now have the ability to deliver a message in a non-automotive research environment to a consumer who has been identified as “in-market” for a particular vehicle segment based on a previous behavior they had captured on a 3rd party automotive research site.

This level of laser-precision targeting was previously unheard of. Think about it. Imagine for a moment the total U.S. population. Then assume for the purpose of illustration that 2% are in-market at any given time. Of that 2%, the audience becomes even more fragmented across every possible vehicle category from SUVs to Luxury Vehicles to Sedans, etc. As you can see, tracking down in-market car shoppers can be very difficult, and looking for specific category intenders is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Outside of search marketing, contextual advertising and behavioral targeting, every other form of media is likely to have considerable waste, or, in other words, deliver messaging to people who would not consider the respective vehicle in the first place.”

Pretty marketing heavy and pretty light on “behavior” other than identifying content, keywords and the sites users look at. Here they post info that goes a little deeper.  That’s better.

So what’s missing? the same thing that’s usually missing from campaigns and most online analytics, about 99% of behavior.  Really.  It’s good to track the clicks, the content affinities, personnas, and some “heat tracking”, but really no one is going to do much better than keyword targeting until they really analyze people’s behavior (schedules of reinforcement, consequences, histories, values).   Not all of this can be done online.  It must be observed.  It must be experimental.

I’m not suggesting these advertising systems don’t do better than just display ads with no targeting.  I am saying that behavioral targeting isn’t nearly as effective as people claim nor is it all that behavioral, beyond a very limited set of web page tracked behaviors.  I am also not suggesting the industry can’t do better.  it can.

I would not, as an advertiser, yet throw tons of money at BT as it rarely outperforms a well designed search keyword program.  Why?

The cost!  The amount of work it takes to run a BT program (asset creation, algos to retarget, spend management, etc. etc.) adds up quickly.  Search marketing has far fewer of these complexities for the end advertiser.

Consider that BT companies are aggregating data across an infinitely varied set of contexts (lots of sites) vs. just Google, Yahoo, and MSN for Search marketing.  That alone, increases the complexity by many orders of magnitudes.  Keyword searches also are wonderfully simple behaviors and the results and resulting clicks are easily tracked feedback mechanisms.  BT doesn’t have any of this, and certainly in a simple form.

So how will BT ever get there?

  • Standardization – publishers and advertisers are going to have to agree on creative types, behavior metrics, etc.
  • Transparency – users, publishers and advertisers are going to have to be far more open with data.  only by very open access to data can everyone do their part in reporting and responding to behavior
  • Offline data tie ins – BT companies need offline data or at least, off site, data to tie back all these ad implementations.  Without knowing all the schedules and consequences inbetween, you can’t really be sure you’ve targeted anymore effectively than just running a demographically targeted ad

In a follow up I will post my outline for my vision for a Behavioral Targeting Tracking and Advertising Company.

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