Targeting Musical Taste: Rihanna Fans Are Looking To Take A Cruise

I always knew I was a tech geek; I didn’t need a new style of behavioral targeting to tell me that. I have a wife and daughter who are here to remind me of my “hopeless geekiness” pretty much at every opportunity. But who knew that my enjoyment of the music group Foster for the People would serve as a tip-off?

According to the newly launched ToneMedia ad targeting company, people who search for this group and its lyrics (well, you try to decipher “Pumped Up Kicks” on your own) are 78% more likely than average to be IT decision-makers. Not only that, but if you are into John Lennon, you are 101% more likely to own a pet. Hmm. I am guilty on both counts. Maybe there is something to this. 

It turns out that our musical taste could be a great marker for a range of affinities we wouldn’t otherwise assume. ToneMedia CEO Val Katayev tells me that over the course of years running his previous company, ringtone aggregator ToneFuse, he was amazed at the volume of music- and lyrics-related searches people conducted. “We came across this category on the Web that was underutilized,” he says. “Music and lyrics are the top search categories.” These were the kinds of searches that were driving people to Web and mobile music sites, ringtones and lyric look-ups. Over the last year Katayev has been building out a network of sites that cater to these searches and creating a “Flex” ad unit that pulls in messaging, video, and rich media that target the searches.

But in touching 55 million uniques and loads of search behaviors, he also started matching these audience and their musical tastes against third-party data that revealed their demographics as well as hobbies, shopping intent and 900 different data points mapping against different music tastes. From this data, ToneMedia constructed affinity profiles of musical tastes. These profiles see, for instance, that Adele fans are 89% more likely to shop for travel to Australia. Drake fans are 138% more likely to shop at AT&T Wireless stores. And if you are high on Rihanna, it is 189% more likely you are also into cruises.

According to Chief Strategy Officer Andy Blacker, “music is a means to an end” in this model. Because just about everyone has a musical taste of one kind or another, it serves as a widespread marker that can be extrapolated broadly. “Because of the content Val chose to go after, what becomes interesting is that it lays out 100,000 different artists and bands. Each becomes a category that reflects back on these 900 segments we have built around a behavior. Every artist is reflecting user profiles back to us."

Because it is such an enormously popular search category, music is a handy funnel for grabbing large numbers of people and targeting them with products that may be entirely unrelated to music. Who knew that people looking up Zac Brown Band content are 43% more likely to took also for car rentals?

The company works with over 100 publishers who service musical tastes with artist information and lyrics.  The company is repping many of the sites, which can be blogs and dedicated lyric look-up sites. The audience targeting approach is designed to sell brand messaging across the sites but targeted to the tastes of users coming in off specific searches. The “ToneTargeting” platform claims to touch 55 million uniques a month.

Katayev notes the company has already run campaigns for Axe, Dove and T-Mobile, which say they have seen click-through and engagement rates multiples higher than standard banner campaigns.

Of course, as both Katayev and Blacker recognize, the affinity data that drives this targeting has uses beyond ad serving. There is another data business waiting to blossom involving matching business categories -- perhaps even brands -- with specific musical groups. In a recent campaign for a laptop manufacturer, the search for laptop intenders turned up an affinity for the '80s sensation Journey, Blacker says. Who knew? Perhaps next summer’s “Hearts Broken in Two, Two, Two” revival tour will be brought to you by Lenovo or Toshiba.   

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