Delivering Personalized Display Ads

While e-commerce marketers have access to powerful platforms for personalizing and optimizing the on-site consumer experience the advertising messaging they deliver off-site has remained, by comparison, static and generic. For that reason display advertising, in the minds of many, has become the ugly duckling of direct response advertisers, living deep in the shadow of paid search and its vaunted database of intentions.

One personalization optimization firm which has spent much of the past decade helping e-marketers build recommendation engines to enhance the on-site consumer experience, believes the time is right to expand the of personalization process to off-site advertising creative and messaging.

"Most retailers by now have at least begun (and many have become quite advanced at) personalizing particular product recommendations and brand attributes for consumers who are on their site," says Cheryl Kellond, senior vice president of advertising at ChoiceStream.



"The problem," she adds, " is that that level of personalization is not followed through when it comes to delivering advertising messages to consumers once they've left the site, or to prospective customers. Retailers are well aware that long-term value and share of wallet depend on building strong relationships with customers over time. No way in the world would a savvy tech e-commerce site assume that every visitor just wanted to see recommendations for the same identical products. They know that within the "tech enthusiast" segment are a wide variety of shopping preferences, different product interests, different budgeting styles, and different priorities. Yet somehow there's a huge disconnect between the rich personalized experience retailers and publishers offer customers on-site and the ad messaging those customers see from the brand off-site."

Further, she says, "Advertising is actually one of the smartest places to put these personalized recommendations - because consumers are not just flocking to ecommerce sites any more - the retailers really need to go out and grab every potential in-market consumer and drive them to their site. Personalized display ads help build this relationship with the customer across multiple channels."

To close this gap ChoiceStream is applying the personalization technology they've applied for on-site content recommendations to off-site ad placement. They deploy cookies to learn about consumers based on the shopping-related choices they've made in the past such as purchases, commercial searches, cart abandonments and conversion clicks.

The premise, Kellond explains, is that the hardest piece, the one where most behavioral targeting continues to come up short, is the product recommendation side. "Once marketers move from optimizing their own sites to targeting ads they are still delivering static, somewhat generic ads based on proxy behaviors such as browsing,' she says. "The gap has been figuring out how to use the e-commerce data marketers have already collected to deliver truly personalized ads."

"You've had a situation,' she adds, " where advertisers are getting better and better at finding out whom they want to target but haven't improved their ability to customize the messaging to drive customers back to their site. Retargeting is one of the highest value places to start with these new personalized ads. By itself it is an effective mechanism to drive new sales, but with ads that contain personalized product recommendations, display ads start to deliver an ROI that looks more like search."

Where behaviorally targeted networks leverage page views, clicks and browsing data to generate arget broad-based audience categories and segments, truly personalized ads, Kellond says, must leverage e-commerce-specific transactional and search to predict what types of products and brand elements best fit not only the category interests but product preferences of consumers.

"Behavioral targeting online ads by consumer segment is the easy part," observes Kellond. "It's personalizing them so each consumer gets a unique ad that is meant for them that's the much harder challenge."

The platform enables an e-marketer, for instance, a consumer electronics retailer, to anonymously follow a shopper who searched for plasma TVs, the next time or number of times that shopper is on a site where that electronics store advertisers. The cookie recognizes the customer and a customized ad can be served showing some new products at the site that the recommendation engine thinks the consumer would like, based on a deep analysis of the consumer's shopping specific data and how they relate to buying preferences of people with similar buying patterns and brand affinities.

This, Kellond believes, promises a decisive step beyond both behavioral targeting and re-targeting.

"The more personally ads can be targeted, it gives advertisers a 'shelf life' in ad frequency they don't have with static ads,' she says. "With re-targeting you've had to concentrate on reaching people off-site in a matter of a few days after their last visit. With more varied creative and offer you can target people for far longer, thirty days or sixty days after they've been off-site."

If successful, she believes, it may also prompt advertisers to realize scaling efficiencies that search advertising, the fair-haired child of today's online world, cannot.

"Search, for all the tremendous insight it offers into intention, has a limited reach ultimately," she says. "As advertisers reach a certain threshold of spend, they see they've tapped out already on their ROI. That's because you really can't attain the right scale of reach and frequency in search."


Editor's Note: Session videos of MediaPost's recent OMMA Behavioral conference are now available for viewing at

6 comments about "Delivering Personalized Display Ads".
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  1. Lisbeth Kramer from Identities, March 4, 2009 at 12:49 p.m.


    I can't tell you how valueable I think your shared information is. Getting management and even marketing "gurus" to get it is another thing. But more than that, I just wanted to add, I also believe the consistent, "personalized" experience has to be in brick and mortar...there has to be a seamless, targeted, engaging dynamic with the consumer at every touch point of their life and exposure of the brand.
    Of course you may only be speaking exclusively of E-commerce sites. But indeed today there are so many B/Mortar out there, small to international that have the E-commerce piece.....finally.

    I just feel that this should be shared in the same breadth of the -on-site experience..that being the in-store..even as far as digital and innovative connects can be made inside the mortar walls as well as the most traditional vehicles that still can engage and are rarely experience anyway.

    I find a great many of the B/M retail brands who drive a site experience as well, clearly as you say, miss the PERSONALIZATION question. Great info

  2. Warren Lee from WHL Consulting, March 4, 2009 at 1:35 p.m.

    Great information, thanks. One comment, I do not see any discussion on how the web users will feel about the idea of retargeting. In all discussions on BT the idea of "creepiness" comes into the discussion at some point. With retargeting, if frequency caps are not part of the equation, I think that there might be consumer backlash. We in the BT space must continue to focus on getting relevant ads to the consumers without causing them to feel uncomfortable with our methodologies. A one sided focus on ROI, in the long term, might be very detrimental to our fledgling industry.

  3. Pascal Bensoussan from Aggregate Knowledge, March 5, 2009 at 12:33 a.m.

    Thanks for this post Phil.

    Yes, personalizing every ad impression delivers relevance and performance. It's a win-win for advertisers, publishers, and consumers.

    We, at Aggregate Knowledge, have seen pretty dramatic lift in performance. Within the same retargeting campaign, one advertiser saw click-through rates improve by 421% and click conversions improve by 662% with personalized ads over static or non-personalized ads.

    Note that dynamically inserting the most popular or the hottest products in the creative delivered only a modest lift.

    The most interesting results for the advertiser above was the 12x improvement in revenue-per-click and 46x improvement in revenue-per-mille (revenue generated per thousand ads served).

    A detailed case study is available on the Aggregate Knowledge website ( for readers who would like to know more.

  4. Gabor Keller from Kaposlogisztika Ltd., March 5, 2009 at 2:45 a.m.

    Well: to my mind We can not consume, but it is like to experience the service, which will ultimately also include the purchase of goods, hiding!?
    We love to cook and be with friends, but the only duty visit relatives...

    In the last two hundred years - especially in the post-industrial societies - won about two thousand hours of free time, the share of working life as a 51 percent to 20 percent.

    Here we have, Hungary continues to decrease the available free time.

    Nuisance related to the visit?

    Yes, because it is already in the nineties, this phenomenon is shown to lift to the leisure, work and rest limits melted together, the activities took place with each other, so that is not necessarily free, but rather the perception leisure decreases.

    Visits to relatives and the relatives of the guests, the reception, for example, one-third of survey participants felt the obligation in whole or in part, and many of the daily shopping, cleaning and leckeírást the kids or work or travel between home and live in leisure activities.

    On average, half of the people are not satisfied with the quantity of free time, which is 30 percent in the last few years has even been reduced, and the majority of the future will decrease even more. Typically, moreover, that the three most common leisure activity with friends összejárást the kertápolást identified and the cooking is mostly for home activities, travel is only half of the respondents organize free.

    The work is never over, the time the treasure!

    In practice, without the constraints of working in, and even the end of the week is focused on the possibility of working, we can see that the "always to be" stresszében we live in, and the expectation that the smart phones and new technologies are always to be available everywhere, there are fewer The amount of time for which the people feel truly free to decide about how to fill it. has become virtually korlátlanná working, and even the end of the week is focused on the possibility of working, we can see that the "always and in all were to be" we live in stress, as well as the expectation that the smart phones and new technologies are always to be available everywhere, there are fewer The amount of time for which the people feel truly free to decide about how to fill it.

    "You are locked in their own habits, and enhance the leisure services and products offered stereotyped and indistinguishable from each other"

    It is noted that the consumer has changed, I do not consume, but the things you want to live, not to acquire the product or service, but from the experience of consuming desire, and we should adapt to the service providers as well. The money and the lost of important objects, instead of the time was a precious asset!

    The Internet is better for children using the family!

    The increasing proportion of leisure-time media has an impact on social relations. It was found that, while watching TV is bad, while the Internet has an impact on good relationships, whether with friends, family or at work we talk about relations - the only neighborly relations appear to be immune to these activities.

    Regular Internet usage in the inactive, for example, 25 per cent increase in the indices of social support parents, so the Internet is more children feel that it's wrong to expect if their parents, who do not like the Internet, while a minimum of 4 hours of TV a day is the opposite effect is.

    Shopping fun!?

    As it turned out, the forced selling is increasingly replaced by the measured value and performance, an increasingly health-conscious environment, and shopping, "the joyful, organized, and the need to purchase." Visiting the mall predominantly young people, who are mostly just spending time in the shop windows and stare in order to go shopping centers, rather than consume. They, therefore, not only that the need for fashion and trends but not the determining factor in consumer habits.

    Buy only a quarter of people in an execution-only duty, 32 percent is imperative for both entertaining and, more specifically 30 percent of the fun going.

    Q: What is the situation in your country? You can think like this, or until the consumer habits of others?

  5. Gabor Keller from Kaposlogisztika Ltd., March 5, 2009 at 2:51 a.m.

    sorry for the hungarian words!

    összejárás= regularly visit
    kertápolás=garden care

  6. Ann Betts from FetchBack, March 5, 2009 at 6:02 p.m.

    Great article, very relevant!!

    To echo what one of the commenters, Warren wrote, I couldn't agree more that frequency capping is important for marketers to keep in mind when doing any sort of Behavioral Targeting. Though more consumers are getting more familiar and comfortable with the fact that marketers may be using their browsing behavior to advertise to them, that does not mean we should over do it - the worst thing anyone in our industry can do is overstep our boundaries and ruin it for everyone else.

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