Search Marketing

Behavioral Targeting and Contextual Advertising

Behavioral Targeting and Contextual Advertising

Is online advertising undergoing a “rebirth”? Some might argue it is, first spurred on by paid search advertising then by contextual and adware placements. Now there is another “new” game in town, if the buzz-o-meter is any indication. While not altogether new, behavioral advertising is getting more play than ever, perhaps because it’s now being married with every marketer’s favorite word: targeting.

Is behavioral targeting really all that? Let’s take a closer look.

The Process

One basic premise in marketing is that to more effectively sell your product or service, you should understand how your customers’ minds work. What do they like to see? What do they want to hear? What do they like to do? And can you determine these things with as little time and money as possible? Now there technologies that *can* easily establish these answers quickly and effectively to give you an at-a-glance picture of behavioral targeting to these consumers.

Behavioral targeting technologies work by anonymously monitoring and tracking the content read and sites visted by a designated unique user or IP as that user surfs the Internet. This is done by serving tracking codes, which are implemented as cookies, on a user’s computer as s/he is served ads from various online advertising networks. Sites visited, content viewed, and length of visit are then all databased and analyzed to predict an online behavioral pattern for such a user, thereby classifying that user by his/her online demographic. Behavioral ad networks then serve targeted advertising related to that user’s behavioral classification, regardless of where s/he then visit.

For example, if a computer user frequents sites such as SlashDot, Maxim Online, Wired, and Men’s Health, behavioral targeting would classify such a user as a male, with interest in technology. When behavioral targeting advertising companies such as Tacoda or 24/7 serves ads on such sites, their ads place behavior targeting cookies on the user’s computer. Then, if that same user later visits a site with ads served by these networks, an advertisement might be served for shaving cream or even a tech job site (especially if the user is reading the news online during regular work hours). If that user becomes target to a behavioral advertising, he may be served a series of the same ad campaign across various sites, all without his awareness of the targeting going on around him.

The Players

Companies like Tacoda Systems, Claria, Revenue Science and Kanoodle – 24/7 provide advertisers with behavioral targeting technologies (a.k.a. “audience management systems”) that pinpoint the actions that users are likely to make in the future based on recent behaviors.

Founded in 2001, Tacoda has the ability to collect audience data from existing data sources (ad servers, email databases, etc.) and then merge that information with subscription, contest and registration data. These profiles contain both demographic and audience site behaviors to provide marketers with a picture of a site’s audience.

Claria publishes advertising messages for various companies and ad agencies to consumers who are part of its GAIN Network of 43 million consumers who agree to receive advertising based on their actual online behavior.

Revenue Science, boasting no upfront costs for publishers, provides its own Audience Search analytics system. A publisher can simply type in specific words from an advertiser’s RFP and have delivered to them precise audience segments. The technology then allows the marketer to drill down and build customized audiences.

Kanoodle and 24/7 Media have partnered to put a new spin on behavioral advertising via sponsored text ads. Dubbed BehaviorTarget, the service will be the first behaviorally targeted sponsored text links network.

Case Studies

According to some recent studies, behavior-based ads are faring much better than content-placed ads. TM Advertising of Dallas recently ran an ad campaign for American Airlines that included rint, radio, TV and online placements on 14 various sites, including a behavioral targeting test on the Wall Street Journal Online. The specific goal was to “increase brand awareness and reach the maximum number of audience members likely to have a live interest in making business travel plans in the near future.”

Working with Revenue Science, TM Advertising was able to determine what pages visitors to the site were reading and what they were reading, as well. From there, a database-targeting system was employed to narrow visitors into different user-groups. The system then tagged these unique visitors to see what activities they were engaging in.

The results of this behavioral targeting proved to be quite dramatic. When compared with the basic web ads, the behavior ads were seen by 115 percent more business travelers making at least one trip a year. The targeted consumers also scored three percent higher than the average viewers in brand awareness.

Another case study involving Snapple and iVillage had a positive outcome. Rather than placing its Snapple-A-Day meal replacement drink ads on the iVillage dieting/fitness pages, Snapple implemented Tacoda Systems’ tracking technology to determine who had visited that channel in the past 45 days. These users were then followed and received the Snapple ads while visiting ALL pages of iVillage.com. Dynamic Logic, an independent research company, concluded that these specific visitors scored higher for key brand metrics than others who saw the same ads within the dieting/fitness channel.

Because behavioral marketing enables advertisers to more easily determine and then postulate about user preferences and purchasing habits, the advertiser is able to treat each prospect more as an individual than an advertising collective. If, in the long, the buyer is unobtrusively being sold on a particular product/service run and the seller profits as a result, behavioral targeting may be a benefit to all.

Screen Shot 2014 04 15 at 7.21.12 AM Behavioral Targeting and Contextual Advertising
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Screen Shot 2014 04 15 at 7.21.12 AM Behavioral Targeting and Contextual Advertising

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