Real-time bidding (RTB) is all about “reaching the right consumer, with the right message, at the right time.” There are a variety of ways to advertise in “real-time” online, and the rise of mobile advertising has introduced even more methods -- namely location-based ads.
But mobile advertising has also raised questions about third-party cookies, how they limit advertisers, and what their role will be in the future.
While the cookie is still the center of online ad targeting, some publishers are turning away from them in favor of first-party data when it comes to serving ads on their sites.
“Nobody has connected the analytics of the publisher to the ad server of the publisher in real-time,” claimed Chris Greene, SVP of business development at Yieldbot, an
ad server that Greene says understands real-time consumer intent, and, more importantly, knows when consumers are in premium content that relies on intent.
When a consumer reaches a Web site, Yieldbot knows where they came from. Instead of using past browsing behavior -- à la retargeting -- the company uses data about the consumer’s current browsing patterns to determine which ads to deliver.
“Every click is an explicit signal,” Greene said. In other words, what the consumer is clicking on is a good indicator of their intent for that particular browsing session.
In some sense, that’s making real-time more, well, real-time. It’s reaching the consumer with a message related to what they are doing right now, not what they did three days ago.
That’s not to say retargeting has no place. Greene believes retargeting has value (though he does think it may be a little overvalued), but believes there’s more power in context and content than personalization.
“If by personalization you mean sending me an ad because I’m a 30-something-year-old guy living in New York, then yes, I value context more than personalization,” he said.
Here’s how it works for Yieldbot: Greene claims their ad server gets the first look at any consumer who enters a Web site, and knows how the consumer got there (i.e. their intent for visiting the page). If the consumer's session "click stream" tells Yieldbot that the user has intent for “patio repair,” Yieldbot scans through its demand, looking for advertisers wanting to reach patio fixer-uppers. If a match is found, Yieldbot serves the ad. If no match is found, Yieldbot passes and the publisher then sells the impression another way. It's taking techniques from search advertising, specifically session-based user inputs, and applying them to a publisher's own site.
The pricing through Yieldbot is currently predetermined between advertisers and publishers, but Greene said the company has tentative plans to add "dynamic bidding" to its server in the future. Greene was clear in saying the plans are still in development and subject to change, but the idea would be to have the ability to change bids and pricing in real-time, depending on each specific user.
"The theory is that the use of the publisher's first-party data in combination with real-time ad matching decisions leads to higher performance for marketers simply because the ads will be far more relevant," Greene explained. He said that Yieldbot works with every major SEM and claims performance on its platform rivals paid search.
Greene said Yieldbot only works with premium publishers, because that’s where he believes consumers are most valuable and where the relationship between browsing patterns and intent is most clear. One such publisher is the Meredith Corporation.
Andy Wilson, chief digital officer at Meredith Corp., said that Meredith uses Yieldbot to create audiences through “keyword intent segments” with first-party data.
“These keyword intent segments have proven useful when selling to clients who are buying keyword campaigns from Google, Yahoo and Bing, thus allowing us to compete head-to-head for what were typically search engine marketing budgets,” Wilson added.
It’s not end-to-end automation -- Yieldbot/publishers needs to create a pool of demand and work out pricing before it can serve any ads -- nor is it the first application of “real-time” data being used to deliver ads (see first paragraph about mobile and location). But it does fit the “real-time” bill, and might be one way the ad industry uses first-party publisher data to shift from cookies -- if their demise is to be believed.