A generation ago, demographic targeting revolutionized marketing with the realization that consumers were not a mass market monolith but rather a rich array of different segments or niches. More recently online behavioral targeting shook up the marketing paradigm by teaching marketers consumers within a demographic were not a monolith either, but individualized by their behavior. In the conversation below Chirag Patel, CEO of MeMedia, makes the case that what we now need to learn is that media behavior is not a monolith either. The next iteration of the behavioral revolution, Patel believes, must encompass the multiple range of behaviors individuals actually exhibit across media channels.
Behavioral Insider: When we spoke a few months ago you had a long-term vision for what you called a multi-modal ad platform. Now that you're actually deploying behavioral targeting across channels, what kind of learning curve have your clients been on?
Chira Patel: Many publishers own and manage Web sites, desktop applications, video assets, and mobile assets but don't necessarily have the capabilities to make this ad space available to prospective advertisers in an integrated manner. Additionally, they don't have the tools necessary to describe this inventory so that premium advertisers can respond and target accordingly.
Advertisers are also starting to recognize that consumers behave differently depending on the media type that they are interacting with. For example, users behave or interact on the browser while surfing or shopping differently than if they were playing a video game or interacting on an IM tool on their desktop. Advertisers typically reach these users assuming all the same behavioral characteristics and aiming their campaigns at individual channels, none of which effectively talk to, learn from, or reinforce one another.
BI: What are the platform's main components?
Patel: We've introduced a unified interface and a contextual and behavioral targeting platform that enables publishers to easily install an ad widget in any digital media type, whether it's a downloadable desktop application like an IM tool, an online Web page, a mobile Web page or a video that describes the asset and exposes the information on that inventory necessary for advertisers to best engage that consumer -- and best of all, communicate with each other.
BI: Can you discuss how each channel is being deployed? IM, for instance?
Patel: Today if a consumer downloads an instant messaging tool, more than likely they will see advertising delivered within the tool -- but it is typically a randomly selected ad. It does not take into account the demographic makeup of the audience that particular tool caters to, nor does it take into account the Web surfing behaviors of the user before it delivers the ad. Therefore there is an enormous amount of untargeted waste in IM advertising, even as consumers spend more and more time there. With a targeting ad widget embedded within the IM software, an advertiser can target ads based on the surfing, shopping and browsing of the user on the Web, creating a better performing campaign and increasing monetization for the publisher.
BI: And games?
Patel: Desktop video games also have unique behavioral characteristics of end users that remain largely untargeted. We know users are deeply engaged and interactive with games -- but also that they don't interact too often with random selected ads running on screen during game time. However, there are passive moments between games which are very conducive to brand messages or more targeted promotional ads. For example, if we know the video game is a golf game, and over time we learn the user is a golf aficionado, we could target a branded campaign for a golf club manufacturer and a discount on local tee times.
BI: How are multiple widgets deployed simultaneously?
Patel: Although Web page advertising has been around forever, with a multi-modal contextual or behavioral ad widget installed on a single page that can communicate with each other, an advertiser can deliver a more cohesive campaign that drives brand awareness based on context and potentially drive leads at the same time. Sticking with the golf example to keep it simple, imagine you have a page on a site that caters to a certain demographic, is in the sports category, and has an article that describes a golf swing. On the top of the page an advertiser can deliver a banner with a brand message, in the middle of the page a video commercial that promotes the company's new golf club, and at the bottom of the page an offer from a golf retailer that offers that club at a discount. Even more powerful is if the user would see the same promotion appear on his/her IM tool or other desktop application that is ad-widget-enabled at the same time. This capability maximizes an advertiser's reach to a highly targeted prospect and maximizes a publisher's multi-modal digital media asset.
BI: How does behavioral tracking grow out of this kind of multi-contextual targeting?
Patel: We can understand behavioral targeting as contextual targeting refined over time. The calculation you're always making is how to integrate, in real time, what you're learning about who consumers are based on demographics, what they're interested in based on the content they consume and how they consume it by media type and device. You've begun to develop a truly 360-degree view of the consumer and their different behaviors and how they fit together.
BI: What's your goal for the next three to six months?
Patel: As we move into 2008, we see multi-modality becoming much better understood by the advertising community, including publishers that own and need to monetize their media assets better. We believe that soon you won't really be able to think of an ad network as a premium behavioral network unless you can not only target an audience on whatever Web page they go to, but target them regardless of what channel or medium they're using.