Keeping BT Fed And Watered

by , Jul 21, 2006, 3:13 PM
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NetPlus Marketing CEO Robin Neifield has executed as many BT campaigns as almost anyone in the business. A big believer in the effectiveness of the format, she started incorporating BT techniques four years ago for a mix of performance-oriented clients that include retail, e-commerce, and catalog firms. But don't drown in the Kool-Aid, Neifield warns even the most devoted fans of this technology. The sexy ROI of BT can be, well, seductive. She tells us how a proper media plan keeps a BT engine from burning out by feeding it with classic branding and PPC (pay-per-click) elements as well.

Behavioral Insider: In your BT campaigns, do you use specific publishers' programs or the networks?

Neifield: A little bit of everything, heavy up on the networks. They seem to work very well. We often use them in concert, not so often one at a time. We will often daisy-chain them.

BI: You have said that BT can be seductive because delivers such good ROI. What are the chief limitations of the format right now?

Neifield: Well, for an ROI-driven or performance-based campaign, it's a winner. [BT] is a wonderful vehicle to drive sales. But if you have a brand campaign and are looking to drive awareness, then you have other kinds of objectives in terms of associating audience with premium sites or need to have a measure of control over where your brand is placed, then it can be a little bit of an issue. We also have to layer in other kinds of tactics and strategic opportunities to keep a BT program performing. It can burn out fairly quickly if you don't feed the audience pool with other tactics.

BI: Explain that idea of needing a reach strategy and feeding the BT pool.

Neifield: There's are a couple of different forms of BT. One of the more successful types is re-targeting, and that involves tagging or pixeling audiences who have been to your client site and then reaching them again when they are out on the network. But in order for that to be successful, you really have to drive people to the client Web site. If you have a relatively new brand or one that isn't getting as much site traffic or you have a new site, then you have to make sure that you're driving people to the site, so that they become part of that targeting pool. And you can do that in a variety of ways. It can be a non-BT display advertising media plan. It could be search or shopping feeds. It could be a number of different areas that help develop this pool that you can then re-target to.

BI: Can you give me an example of how you integrated BT with some of these other pieces like brand reach campaign, PPC, and how the pieces worked together?

Neifield: Let's say we're talking about a retailer.  The first step in our process is understanding their objective. If they are performance-based and they have very clear-cut cost of marketing goals to reach, then we work to establish an overall aggregated ROI to the campaign. So, it's not really about how the BT will perform, but about how the campaign as a whole will perform. If you are only looking at the ROI metric by itself you are going to limit the scope of what you can do to a very small and highly successful campaign. But if your goal is to scale a campaign and drive revenue within a target cost to marketing, then you have to bring other tactics into play.

BI: How do you then operate with the networks?

Neifield: What we do is start with that goal for the overall campaign and then we build around the BT. Frequently, we start with networks. We go out to maybe three to five networks and work with them to understand what's in their site list. We have very good relationships; we have been doing this for a number of years and they understand the parameters we are working with. We tell them, 'these are the other networks we are talking to and the other sites. What we are looking for from you is to extend the reach and be on the sites [the others] are not on, so there is less audience depreciation.'

Within the networks, it's not a purely BT phenomenon that is going on. They also may do contextual targeting within their own networks to identify the audience shopping behaviors that we want to target. And once those people are identified, they go into the retargeting pool. So you are layering network on network and, within the network, several different targeting tactics. Then outside of the network environment, you may incorporate premium sites because those are audiences that are either difficult to reach or expensive to reach. And we know that we can reach them with a display advertising campaign. Once we have reached them one time and enticed them to the client site we can then put them into the targeting pool. So, we have achieved our objective of reaching that premium audience, and we now have an opportunity to talk to them multiple times.

BI: How are you using search and PPC marketing in the mix as well?

Neifield: Search can be rather expensive if you look at it individually, but we factor that into our bidding strategy as well. If we can get someone to the site and we get them to click, then they are also in the retargeting pool. If they don't buy the first time, we have the opportunity to message them multiple times. So you factor that into your pricing on the PPC side. The same goes for the shopping feeds.

BI: What is the state of the vendors at this point in the evolution of BT?

Neifield: I think it is very strong. They have a lot of good technologies and have had a couple of years to really hone this as an opportunity. The risk may be that now that the secret is out and everyone is doing it, consumers may start to get more immune. They start to get mostly relevant ads, and then the relevancy of those ads will be less effective. You also have to hope that vendors, agencies and clients are smart about frequency capping.

BI: What would you like to see next in BT?

Neifield: I would love to see the biggest players somehow work together so that you could aggregate your performance metrics across networks, and you could get a clearer picture.

BI: How about more standardized audience segmentation?

Neifield: I think channels can be very helpful and effective, but it's the short-cut to behavioral targeting. If you are going to identify your audience by channels, are you really identifying your audience by their behavior? You are relying on someone else to do that or define the behavior for you.

BI: Is there a real risk of too many people using BT at the same time? Or is it just the natural way all interactive marketing should head?

Neifield: I think it is the natural evolution, and I think it will continue to evolve. There are those who will be doing their first BT program three years from now. I think BT is hot because it works, and because for the great majority of online marketers, the ROI factor is a huge performance boost.

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