OMMA Behavioral 2010: Let The Data Games Begin

As we assemble in New York on Thursday for the East Coast edition of OMMA Behavioral, the prospects for the behavioral advertising segment are at once strong and guarded. I spoke with eMarketer Senior Analyst Dave Hallerman the other day just as he released a new research piece on audience ad targeting. On the one hand, Hallerman had some hefty projections for growth in the category: 21.6% this year and 20%+ growth out through 2014. Behaviorally targeted display will outpace the display market generally, as it moves from a 14.2% of all display spending this year to 19.8% in 2014.

More so than ever before, though, the issues surrounding online privacy and industry regulation threaten to restrict growth. "The buy side is not dissimilar from the audience," in this regard, Hallerman says. Some brands and agencies he spoke with aren't much bothered by the fact that BT might turn off some of their own audiences, but others are. "Some brands and several agencies I spoke with said their clients are reluctant to do targeting that could be perceived as a form of privacy violation," he says.

Every time Google or Facebook take a misstep when it comes to privacy, the issue is further mainstreamed. Hallerman speculates that in an environment where spending is hampered by uncertainty, new laws or regulation could actually help the situation. Buyers need to know what is and isn't in bounds, and whether further regulations are or are not forthcoming. "Clarity is very much needed in a situation where there is doubt," he says.

The privacy and transparency issues are only exacerbated now that the offline data powerhouses are bringing their trove of purchasing behaviors into the online targeting mix. How offline and online data merge or compete with one another, and the new issues they may raise for marketers, is the subject of the kickoff panel Thursday. Over the last decade the prospect of merging offline and online behavioral sets into a 360-degree profile of user intent and the product consideration process has served as both Holy Grail for marketers and a red flag for privacy watchdogs. Will the merging of offline and online data be both -- or neither?

The offline/online data marriage one of the emerging trends we chose to highlight at this show. Another is the need to measure effectiveness (both online and offline) more rigorously. In speaking with a number of agency executives lately, we found a greater focus on attribution and getting well beyond "last-click" analysis to understand how all of the elements of the media mix are working with one another. Our panel led by Passenger's CMO, Samantha Skey, "Show Me the ROI: Make Behavioral Targeting Drive Sales and Revenue for Your Brands," flips the proposition of the first panel and looks at how online brands like Allstate are tying online marketing campaigns to retail results.

Picking up on this theme in the afternoon, Forrester's David Cooperstein is facilitating a media buyers' roundtable on attribution. We asked some of the gurus at major agencies to come in and share how they are modeling attribution beyond short-sighted last-click metrics. 

Wrapped around the roundtables and panels we have three refreshing keynotes. The always-interesting Rishad Tobaccowala starts us off in the morning by keeping the human factor front and center, reviewing the opportunities involving data and behavioral targeting. Matt Freeman returns to the buy side, as he recently left the world of ad networks to run Mediabrand Ventures. The demand-side platforms have been all the talk of 2009, but Matt gets us beyond the buzz to explore how the DSP model and audience-based buying generally rattles the entire digital media and advertising value chain.

And in the afternoon, the IAB's Vice President of Public Policy Mike Zaneis will report the latest research and thinking behind the campaign to create universals icons and messaging around behavioral targeting. Is this industry really ready to police itself and explain to end users what exactly is going on when they click?

As is our wont and tradition, we end the day with a "grilling of the vendors." For those who are keeping track, we started this mini franchise at the first OMMA Behavioral show as a way to politely interrogate the vendors who often bring new ideas (and sometime new confusion) to the marketplace. We ask them to show us their value proposition and to differentiate themselves from one another.

This time we take a different angle and look at the new class of so-called "content farmers" who are using online search and other behaviors to help set the editorial agenda. Are these guys just flooding the market with more low-value inventory -- or is there a play here for marketers who want to run display alongside content that someone came to via a search keyword? 

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