Advertisers have come a long way since the tantalizing vision of "one to one" marketing was put before us way back in 1993, at the pre-dawn of the Internet era, by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers. Web tracking and measurement tools provide an infrastructure to take the kind of total customization Peppers and Rogers envisioned to a radically new level. Bringing that vision to fruition requires a deeper partnership between technologists and marketers, and a new synergy between analytics and creativity, as Alistair Goodman, vice president of strategic marketing at Exponential Interactive, explains below.
BI: How is the approach to targeting Exponential's been evolving with Tribal Fusion differentiated from what we're seeing elsewhere in the industry?
Goodman: We designed our Dynamic Ads product with the vision of attaining a true 1:1 marketing message for advertisers. Accomplishing that implies the ability to creatively customize a message based on as many different variables as advertisers think are relevant. A critical technology component is to give advertisers the power to stream updated offers into an ad unit directly from their own databases on an as-needed basis based on their target variables -- be they Zip codes, psychographics or content surfed.
BI: What part does the behavioral component play?
Goodman: On the behavioral front we're similarly trying to expand the menu of variables. Where we started is with the content consumed by users, organized by subjects of interest, channels and sub-channels. We're moving to incorporate all segments of online activity including search history and more granular ways of tracking content interest, not just by keywords but also using contextual technology that breaks down topics on a page level.
BI: How do you work with advertisers and publishers in integrating the behavioral piece?
Goodman: Marketers have done a lot of heavy lifting in researching the profiles of their customers. If you're a serious marketer, you know a lot of things about your prospects. You know demographics, psychographics, online and offline behavior, maybe even regional differences. And you also know how to discover whether your prospects are in-market and, more importantly, where they are in the sales funnel as they define it. So our job is to help marketers build a customized targeting profile based on what their own template is, and then help them deliver customized creatives based on that knowledge. This starts by assimilating advertisers' understanding of their customer's profile, then learning what specific metrics they believe are most relevant to gauge success.
This is quite different from what most targeting systems do, which is essentially to tell advertisers ‘here's what our system does. You figure out how it relates to what's important to you.' Instead of having the technology side impose the terms on the marketing side, it's the other way around.
BI: How does dynamic ad serving work?
Goodman: The key idea of the newest iteration of dynamic ads is that advertisers can change elements of their ad creative, copy and offers at will based on specific attributes of individual users. This could be a mix of their location, the type of content they've consumed, their demographics, psychographics and search behavior -- and they can do it working off a single simple template. This streamlines the production and distribution of unique ads. Given the template of creative elements, they can be arranged and rearranged into any combination reflecting the interests and profile of individual Web surfers. This applies to ad copy, visuals and, perhaps most interestingly of all, landing page links.
BI: What's the role of landing pages?
Goodman: Here's an example of how customized landing pages can work. A realtor places five different listings for a house in a particular Zip code in a single ad unit, and when users click on each different listing, they'll go to a custom landing page specifically for that house. That's the simplest example -- but it can pertain not only to real estate and geo-targeting, but consumer electronics and retail, where each different product or each different creative based on different targeting criteria can be tied to a customized landing page. We're getting hard data showing an 80% increase in conversions based on the combination of dynamic ads and customized landing pages.
BI: What sorts of near-term goals do you have on the horizon for your platform?
Goodman: The crucial step forward is to enable advertisers to understand how an ad is working at an ad unit level, and how ad units can work together, even if they are not clicked on. Where we're headed now is to track not only how well an ad campaign did in relation to specific target segments, but how well each element of the creative functioned for each target ad based on the advertisers' metrics -- be they branding or performance.