Michael Winter, media director, Agency.com, is among the most experienced practitioners of behavioral targeting tools in the planning world. Six years ago he ran a BT campaign for Adobe at Reuters' site, and he continued to explore the evolving platform as vice president-media director for Beyond Interactive. As BT moves beyond the usual high consideration product categories like travel and auto, we caught up with Winter recently to discuss its relevance to consumer packaged goods (CPG). We wanted to find out, can BT sell pet food and toothpaste?
Behavioral Insider: How can behavioral tracking fit a CPG campaign? Travel and auto are considered purchases with online research that leaves a trail.
Michael Winter: Pet food or toothpaste are a little different. Obviously there are those who engaged with us or have visited our site or competitive sites. But we are starting to expand out to tertiary behaviors... almost psychographics, that would make up that consumer. On how to use it, I think there are a couple of things. One is creating storylines. With auto or travel it can be more offer-based, or how to move someone through that consideration cycle. With packaged goods, it typically is more of a brand message or a coupon message. We can really start to identify different storylines for people, move them through a different experience with the brand, as well as segment them based on higher or lower interest. Then, when it comes to a new product launch or a new flavor, feed it to those folks first, because they are the influencer or the taste-makers.
Behavioral Insider: What goals apply to a BT execution with CPGs? Branding or direct marketing?
Winter: It is much more of a persistent brand and it is trying to help us better identify audiences within the larger population. Anybody should be brushing their teeth -- but really who then is our consumer? And we are trying to be more efficient in putting that brand message out there. From a DR perspective, we're starting to look at it as a way to almost create discrete campaigns. So we might be running a promotion above and below line and really what we are starting to do is look at those campaigns as a way to recruit people for future efforts. Obvious retargeting is a big play in this behavioral space. But again I think it is also becomes multidimensional. We have this audience we have identified and clearly should be spoken to and marketed to separately. Over time we will probably learn other kinds of trends, in terms of understanding how they research and their research cycle really works, so that three or six months or two weeks down the road we can build campaigns specifically to hit them.
Behavioral Insider: What has changed most dramatically in the last year or so in the way BT is bought, planned or just discussed?
Winter: I think theoretically the promise has been the same from the start: building segments, building audiences, being able to identify them and separate them from the masses and more precisely target. But I think two of the largest differences are scale and breadth. When I did the Adobe campaign [with Reuters], it worked well for us. But when it came to behavioral targeting that is when everyone was working either with Tacoda or Revenue Science, but there was no network to it. So really we were fishing within the Reuters pool and that limited both our scale and our breadth because we didn't get to match that up across a network or a larger group of sites that might have different characteristics. As it has moved more into networks, and as the profiles or the segments have been able to scale, and the companies have been able to create to some extent canned profiles, you can take some of these off the shelf. Not everything is fully customized, so you have to spend however many weeks developing the profiles and then spend another couple of weeks using it. You could almost pull them off the shelf. That is a huge change. It allows people to more easily test it.
Behavioral Insider: How has your own planning changed?
Winter: Now again, we are spending more time on a continuity basis. We are separating [audiences] out of campaigns so we can start to move that data on our own, extruding all those folks and matching them against existing or predefined segments and then looking at ways to enhance that over a longer period of time than say a six week or quarterly buy. If you are just doing a two- to three-week campaign and say it is a brand-new campaign, it's going to be pretty tricky to really get the most value out of it. Now if it is a two- or three-week follow-up campaign after you have already created these segments that could be different. I think you have to have a longer view of how you use it. Now once you have gotten that, then you can be a little more agile and come in and come out of market differently.
Behavioral Insider: Does BT evolve simply by getting more scale and breadth, or is there another next big stage?
Winter: One of the things that I am most interested in looking at right now is, how does BT morph into other channels like mobile and gaming and things like that. But then how do you start to build profiles that cross through those channels, recognizing that this person I am communicating with through email or mobile is also somebody I am speaking to online? Much further down the road, I am really interested in television like digital cable. There is an enormous opportunity for BT there.
Behavioral Insider: The issue du jour is how BT applies to social networking. Do you see anything promising or dangerous there?
Winter: I guess I see it as both. I think there is a lot of promise to them. It is sort of the natural evolution for their advertising model, hopefully with the result that the performance is improved. It's not the greatest measure of success, but click-through rates are pretty abysmal on those sites. I think we are all looking for a way to better tap into the social network environment without needing always to create a branded page or a profile. So being able to tap into that kind of better understanding and usage and connections in that environment is important. I think obviously the early return is that it's a bit scary and a bit sketchy at the moment.