Real-Time Ad Targeting Gains Smarts From Yahoo, Microsoft Patents

Some wonder how real-time technology serving online advertising can seem so smart and sophisticated, yet the advertisements that target us appear so dumb and off track. Several systems from Yahoo, Microsoft, engage:BDR, and ReachLocal hope to change that.

Yahoo was granted a patent Tuesday that its inventors describe as a "behavioral targeting system that generates user profiles for target objectives." For example, an interest score may model the strength of the user's interest in purchasing a product or service within a category of music,  according to the patent.

Inventors at Microsoft were granted a patent Aug. 4, described as a method for "semantic user profiles for targeting user segments." Semantic user profiles are built by gathering data on online user behavior such as search queries and page views, and interests inferred based on user behavior.



Engineers at Los Angeles-based engage:BDR created a targeting platform the company calls State of Mind Targeting, specific to mobile devices. CEO Ted Dhanik explains the platform takes in historic browsing data, as well as latitude and longitude, segments, and day parting.

Dhanik said several unnamed consumer product goods companies have been testing the platform that lets them target messages and advertisements to consumers on their mobile devices based on location, as granular as the street they walk or drive on.

For example, consumers who searched for sports information in the past 30 days, now browsing the Web on their mobile device during a baseball game, will begin to see hot dog and soda advertisements, along with other snacks served at the concession stand.

Unlike engage:BDR's State of Mind targeting platform, local marketing company ReachLocal programmatically serves ads in more than 4,000 popular apps, and more than 100,000 local and specialty apps, so marketers can reach more "nearby" consumers. The ReachDisplay InApp display unit is based on geofencing technology with a real-time targeting radius of up to 5 miles. The targeting also lets consumers know how far they are from a business, and allows them to access a map for directions.

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