The Phony Funnel

by , Dec 21, 2007, 10:30 AM
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The fact is that for all of the intense research surrounding car purchasing, we never really know where in the "purchase funnel" a consumer is when they hit a car site. They may be just as receptive to sealing the deal on that new Ford Focus when consulting an online recipe. And with auto car inventory in such tight supply, advertisers and ad networks are looking for new places to grab in-market consumers. The vertical ad network Jumpstart is rolling out its BehaviorPATH product that tags and segments the 8 million unique users that come to its collection of auto sites (including CarandDriver.com, Vehix, and CarSoup) and now serves them behaviorally targeted ads on non-auto content they encounter elsewhere. According to Vice President of Product Strategy Joe Kyriakoza, the new product should be able to reach up to 75% of Internet users via ad network and publishing partnerships around the Web. Kyriakoza walked us through some of the ways early users of the platform both increased their reach and reduced their cost per action.

Behavioral Insider: Where will you be placing your BT campaigns off of the usual auto content sites?

Joe Kyriakoza:
Sites like Fox News and WhitePages.com. Our focus is on building extended reach on branded sites of high quality where our advertisers are not concerned about the environment their ads appear. We are still reaching auto shoppers, but in a lifestyle environment where there is good content.

BI: How does BehaviorPATH differ from the standard Jumpstart BT product?

Kyriakoza:
It is something we have been doing, but now we created more of a product brand around it. It gives us the opportunity to extend our reach to these quality auto shoppers. The reality is, they are not always shopping for a car. There is still a lot of value in that user when they are not on an auto site. In an auto [content] environment, a lot of things are going on, and there is a lot to take in. The BehaviorPATH environment is a little less cluttered from that standpoint.

BI: But that also raises the question of effectiveness of a behaviorally targeted ad when entirely out of an auto context. What differences in performance have you seen?

Kyriakoza:
The click-through rates are going to be traditionally higher in context placements. We are seeing that the quality of clicks through behavioral targeting [out of context] is considerably higher because the user is performing more action when they arrive at the advertiser site. So they are highly qualified and when they do click, it shows. When a user does click on a behaviorally targeted ad, we are seeing a lot more depth of engagement of that user. They are taking more steps to get them closer to a sale. That offer in a non-auto environment was compelling enough for them to click. They decided that this is the right offer.

BI: There is also more targeting flexibility when you get out of the auto context?

Kyriakoza:
If you are Ford and want to promote the Fusion and feel Toyota Camry and Chevy Malibu are your main competitors, you can target the people who have researched them. In context we have very little conquesting opportunity for advertisers because most of the OEMs buy the inventory that is on their pages. But through BT, conquesting is suddenly a great initiative again and something they can do.

BI: Are you finding that any particular non-auto content performs better than others?

Kyriakoza:
We haven't gotten into that depth in terms of trending. The one trend we have seen, though, is that the better branded sites or the better quality sites are always going to perform better. Some of the broader network buys are not as great from a performance standpoint.

BI: You have a case involving a manufacturer that demonstrates BehaviorPATH performance.

Kyriakoza:
We had an advertiser that was interested in targeting various categories of shopper, sedans, SUVs, luxury vehicles, crossovers, in the non-auto environment. The key takeaways were that we have the ability to optimize very well and in order to drive better performance. We optimized things like frequency, shifting weight of ad delivery dates and the best performing sizes. The biggest thing is the ability to recalibrate segments so we can mix and match different models within a segment based on whether it is performing well or not. So if certain vehicles may not belong in that segment we can always pull them. We can adjust recency so most of our segments are based on users who have done auto research in roughly an 8 to 10 week period, In some categories, if you shorten that cycle it performs better. We were able to increase this OEM's cost efficiency, their cost per actions, by 37%, just through optimization. And in some categories we had dramatic increases: over 100% in sports cars and 91% in trucks.

BI: Does this help them overcome the usual problems of scale?

Kyriakoza:
Especially if someone is trying to promote an SUV, and there are so many out there, the clutter becomes really heavy in context. So BT becomes a great solution for those types of initiatives, for launches and comparisons.

BI: Was this campaign targeting any spot in the purchase funnel?

Kyriakoza:
I think every segment is going to have a mix of all types of users.. We had segments that are sedan shoppers, etc. Those people are qualified based on [going] to a sedan product page. They are deep in the funnel from that standpoint.

But the reality is that you never really know where that person is in the funnel You know from a time stamp that they have been in the funnel for X amount of time, so our ability to adjust recency enabled us to see what is the optimal time for this campaign or for this segment.

It varies by segment. For some segments, if someone was beyond four weeks of performing a behavior then they may not have been as qualified. So it's hard to really qualify it as one point in the funnel versus another. I don't buy into the funnel theory as a sort of tunnel vision where people actually follow a specific path, because they really don't. They do a lot of different things in the process, and unless you straight out ask them how far out they are you really don't know.

People don't just follow a path. That was created for marketing theory and made it easier to follow. But the reality is, a person rarely ever follows a path where they say, okay, I am three months away from buying a car and I have to go to a dealership. People just don't think that way. It's hard to just place a framework around it.

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