Tearing Down the (Data) Walls

Behavioral targeting is driven by the premise that by paying attention to how people express their interests and needs, brands can connect and communicate more relevantly with the people who most want to hear what they want to say.

Unfortunately, advertisers and publishers too often artificially limit their ability to do just that by confining their definition of "behavior" to a single dimension (clicks) in a single channel, online.

Key to taking advertising targeting beyond its current silos is to pay attention to another, currently poorly followed or completely ignored, component of behavior: how media, all media, is consumed, argues Robert Tas, CEO of Sportgenic.

Tas believes that vertical ad networks need to learn to follow their vertical audience and its behaviors outside and beyond the online space.

"Our mission of connecting marketers to passionate sport enthusiasts has not changed," Tas explains. "Though we've been one of the first ad networks devoted to the sports vertical online, we never really thought of ourselves as a vertical online ad network. We simply saw a big gap in existing channels of getting to sports enthusiasts. It was never a question of the Web being the only focus of that challenge. It just happened to be where we started."

"The 'vertical ad network' introduced enormous efficiencies to online advertising," Tas says. " As a passionate sport enthusiast, I certainly use the Internet very regularly, but I also watch TV, go to sporting events, participate in events (not as much as I used too) and read magazines (yes, I still do). The Internet is only one way to connect with people like me. There is an opportunity to challenge the limitations of the traditional ad network model in favor of more open and dynamic approach to reaching people wherever they are --at work, at home and at play. To be truly vertical you can't be fragmented." Sportgenic's Torque platform, currently in beta, is an attempt to overcome this fragmentation.

"What we saw was that partner publishers had far more in the way of content than just online," Tas explains. "They were already fully multichannel in how they deliver content and how their audiences consume it. And that advertisers wanted to find ways of connecting to sports enthusiasts whenever and however they can. Nike, for instance, wants sports enthusiasts, not just online sports enthusiasts. Clients like Nike, Gatorade, Toyota and Secret utilize multiple types of media to reach their target audience. But all of them found it was difficult to manage it all from one source and streamline planning and buying processes."

"What happened," Tas recalls, "was that we'd already been developing technology internally to enable clients to track and manage all their content assets on a 360-degree basis through a unified dashboard. What became clear to us and to clients as we saw that data being unified was how walled off, needlessly walled off, different compartments of consumer behavior remained. We realized there was huge demand to break down those walls."

By breaking down those walls and "de-siloing" data Sportgenic is working to identify new kinds of behavioral segments that have unique ways of consuming media.

"What Torque is based on doing," Tas says, " is letting an advertiser who wants to reach a segment, for instance what we call 'Affluents,' and figure out just what mix of media 'touch points' to use and locate where those are across media channels."

For instance Tas cites one segment, "Thrill Seekers," made up of sports enthusiasts dedicated to "action sports," such as snowboarding, skateboarding, surfing and motocross. They are savvy tech adopters that use the Internet for product info/reviews, competitions results, weather reports and the latest news in their sport. They have a heavy concentration of 13 - to 30-year-old males, and are driven to performance sports events both as spectators, but more importantly, as participants.

"They watch very little TV," Tas explains. "They are big at attending live events. They use the Web to get information relevant to their training programs, but they aren't passive Web surfers. They get sports and other news via mobile, and learn about areas of interest by communicating with fellow sports enthusiasts on social networks. That's a hugely different profile from a golfer who plays once a week, watches golf on TV, might follow the PGA tour through newspapers and Web sports sites."

In targeting "Thrill Seekers", for instance, Sportgenic worked with AT&T on a wireless "On the Go" application where users could choose triathlon events and actually track races in real time.

The move from single channel to channel-agnostic behavioral analytics, Tas says, is based on following where both publishers and consumers are already, and where advertisers increasingly want to be.

"It's been the middlemen, the networks, which have lagged in responding to this new reality," Tas observes.

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