Moving Flash Cookies Into Direct-Response BT

If you're confused about the ad networks or technology companies offering behavioral targeting, Tatto Media CEO Lin Miao says you're not alone. Consolidation is on the horizon, he says, and "smoke and mirror behavioral shops" will fall by the wayside within the next 12 to 18 months.

The problem is the industry has become "reckless" about using the word "behavioral" when referring to targeting ads online, he says. It not only creates chaos among advertisers and publishers trying to figure out the companies that actually offer the service, but it also has begun to affect what "behavioral targeting" means.

Miao predicts within the next two years BT will move away from being used as a reporting tool and into performance and direct-response-based metrics. As a reporting tool, the BT technology monitors and keeps track of the number of clicks and how consumers responded to ads. As a performance and direct response metric the targeting is done through Flash-based cookie and data tags that last between three and six months.

In the direct response model, advertisers don't pay for leads or actions until something happens. Publishers don't get paid on a CPM basis, but only if an action results from the campaign. "If you were an advertiser wanting to buy media on a site like eHarmony.com, you could go through a CPM network and buy traffic everywhere, which isn't that effective," Miao says. "Or you can choose a Tatto Media network to buy ads on eHarmony.com and target males ages 25 through 36."

The problem that continues to distress behavioral ad networks is the length of time a cookie remains on a person's computer. Legacy networks have built their tracking systems around regular cookies. The problem is the average lifespan is less than 15 days. Increasingly more browsers, such as Google Chrome and Microsoft Internet Explorer, successfully block cookie tracking. And we all know that this presents problems for ad networks trying to retarget consumers based on collected cookie and pixel tag information.

When Tatto began to develop its core behavioral frameworks and algorithms, it believed Flash cookies would remain the best way to slow the ability of consumers to delete cookies from their computers. Flash cookies are no different than regular cookies in terms of user privacy, but on average remain on a person's computer for more than three months.

Miao believe three months is enough time to accurately retarget consumers based on proprietary behavioral algorithm. Three months provides enough history as to what types of advertisements consumers may respond to, and how often they click or respond to certain ads. He has no doubt ad networks will turn toward Flash cookies in the future as a way to compete and gather the most relevant and precise information.

Miao views behavioral technologies as a complementary tool to Tatto's direct response initiatives. He believes the best way to innovate is demonstrate to advertisers through direct response that behavioral targeting can create efficiencies. Behavioral networks need to prove to clients the technology is sustainable and can provide real benefits to advertisers, publishers and consumers, he notes.

In July 2009, Tatto Media ranked the third largest ad network worldwide in the comScore Worldwide Key Measures Media Metrix report.

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5 comments about "Moving Flash Cookies Into Direct-Response BT ".
  1. Jules Polonetsky from Future of Privacy Forum , September 16, 2009 at 12:54 p.m.

    So you all feel OK about using cookies that most users dont know how to control? Do you wonder why leading ad networks dont use flash cookies in this manner?

    http://www.futureofprivacy.org/2008/12/31/flash-cookies-and-privacy/

    I am FOR behavioral advertising, when done in a transparent manner, with users having control. You folks arent helping.

  2. Andre Szykier from maps capital management , September 16, 2009 at 1:11 p.m.

    Flash cookies persist because browsers are not set up or configured to control these types of files. As more people migrate to rich media content and mobile content, these cookie types will proliferate. Every BT vendor does not want Flash cookies to go away; otherwise, tracking CPA and CPT cannot be measured realiably. It's probably a reason why browser vendors are reluctant to give this privacy control to the users in an automatic or less painful way. But, read on for some solutions that exist.

    Here are a few ways you can manage this privacy issue.

    For the Apple OS, use Flush.app

    For Windows OS you have a few more options.

    1. Manage flash settings.

    This requires you to go to the macromedia site ( http://www.macromedia.com/support/documentation/en/flashplayer/help/settings_manager07.html )

    You will see what cookies exist and using their service, you can delete cookies or set permissions to write Flash enabled applications to be turned off. However, this could prevent you from seeing any Flash content.

    2. Browser plugin Firefox.

    This one is in beta and is called Objection.
    You can download the plug in through Firefox or go to this site for instructions:
    http://downloads.mozdev.org/objection/objection-0_3_3-fx.xpi

    Another plug in is Betterprivacy.
    When you start Firefox, search for it by name or go to:
    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/downloads/latest/6623/addon-6623-latest.xpi?src=addondetail

    You can also use Flashblock but this blocks all flash content. You do have the choice of selectively disabling Flash content but I suspect that the Flash cookie will be set after you block the content.

    3. third Party Cookie manager

    the best is a German MAXA software tool:
    http://www.maxa-tools.com/cookiedown.htm that is able to delete Flash cookies (they almost always have a file extension of [.sol]

    4. For program savvy users.

    You can create a script and save it with [.bat] extension in your C: drive. Periodically run it.

    rem ------------- script begins
    for /f "usebackq delims=:" %%i in (`dir /b "%APPDATA%MacromediaFlash Player#SharedObjects"`) do (
    rmdir /s/q "%APPDATA%MacromediaFlash Player#SharedObjects\%%i"
    )

    for /f "usebackq delims=:" %%i in (`dir /b "%APPDATA%MacromediaFlash Playermacromedia.comsupportflashplayersys#*"`) do (
    rmdir /s/q "%APPDATA%MacromediaFlash Playermacromedia.comsupportflashplayersys\%%i"
    )
    rem ------------- end of script

  3. Catherine Dwyer from Pace University , September 16, 2009 at 1:48 p.m.

    I am shocked. It is hard to believe the CEO of a company would describe in such bald terms that their strategy is to intentionally use tracking mechanisms that are difficult for people to delete. You ignore why people delete tracking cookies at your peril.

  4. Grant Hosford from eHarmony , September 16, 2009 at 2:54 p.m.

    I've heard good things about Tatto but I'd like to point out we (eHarmony) don't work directly with them today and they don't have direct access to our inventory.

  5. Warren Lee from WHL Consulting , September 17, 2009 at 2:37 p.m.

    Thanks for the article Laurie. I believe as well that we are heading for some serious consolidation in the BT arena. One simple reason for it is that planners just do not have the time to take advantage of all of the different BT data sources, platforms and attributes. Since the power of BT is based on combining data and sources, I think that consolidation will be healthy for the industry as well as for the consumer and the advertising based model that we have now.

    In reading all of these comments, it is obvious that the people at Tatto Media have lots of happy. loyal customers (that or they have a large war chest for bribes- please read that as an attempt at humor). Good for them. Keep up the great customer service.

    The idea of flash based cookies is clever, but I was curious about the comment that the cookie has PII data. Is that true?

    Thanks again for the article, Laurie, and all of the comments.