Ex-Googler Targets Social Behavior

Despite the contention between those who oppose and those who advocate behavioral targeting, brands and their advertising agencies continue to develop sophisticated campaigns that include this technology. For example, Olympus just launched an advertising campaign for the PEN E-PL1 Camera featuring behavioral targeting, social media, and augmented reality simulation.

While Olympus chose to target consumers based on behavior, there are other options for brands not wanting to choose that route. Take "social targeting," a tactic used by Media6Degrees, which relies on social data to target ads to consumers online. The technology finds interested customers and then seeks out the friends of those customers.

Don't call this "behavioral targeting," says Ex-Googler and Media6Degrees CEO Tom Phillips. "It's a loaded word, and that's not what we do. Behavioral refers to observing specific behavior of particular browsers generally not identified beyond browser IDs. Trying to track that behavior is a fool's errand."



Phillips says people connect to each other in meaningful ways. Media6Degrees engineers think they've found a way to mine data from social graphs to target consumers and their friends. The technology maps connections between browsers. Those connections, tons of anonymous browsers connecting with URLs, imply brand loyalty. These connections allow Media6Degrees to construct audiences that share the same brand loyalty.

Media6Degrees measures the relevance with connections to a brand, relying on its proprietary technology and an array of algorithms to determine the most relevant. To some, that might be construed as targeting someone based on social behavior. But Phillips says the technology analyzes the "universe of brand loyalists for a given brand." Each brand has a unique content identifier and underlying set of data that allows Media6Degrees to predict future customers.

Phillips says the company is working on developing audiences for "pure brand marketers," where traffic to Web site isn't the goal because they offer packaged goods typically sold through retailer stores. He's out to prove that social targeting works equally well. The problem is you can't prove this with conversion data. Creating alternate ways to develop "seed population" and measure brand lift becomes the challenge.

A form of dynamic advertising based on social targeting becomes the other challenge. Phillips calls it "social CRM." This means determining within milliseconds the correct ad to serve up, based on a browser mapped to a social graph. The technology works, he says, but there's no scheduled deployment date. The financial services market and retailers that offer lots of different types of products will have the most to gain from this service.

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