Ain't Mis-Behavin'

There was a time, not too far in the past, when behavioral targeting and marketing were mysterious practices tried only by media clients who were more witchdoctor than scientist. Now, behavioral targeting is de rigueur, if not in practice, it's at least a viable marketing technique to consider.

One of the problems with behavioral marketing is the fact that if the behavioral profiling being done is against audiences on just one site, then the profiles made of those audiences are only applicable ON THAT SITE.

For example, uses the remains of Personify to allow for behavioral targeting on the site. If I want to get messages in front of people interested in travel, but no longer have travel-related inventory left, I can put travel messages in front of people who have visited the travel section of the site but are now in, say, the movies section.

The problem here is that one rarely runs a one-site ad campaign. I'm not controlling for behavior throughout my media plan, but only through one vehicle. Another problem inherent in many of the ways behavioral marketing can be executed is that single-site application has the potential for slices of the audience to get too small.



If I refine my behavioral profile too finely, based on too many discrete characteristics, I run the risk of creating a micro niche that is too small to yield enough customers to sustain a business. Efficiency is always a necessary objective to have when executing a media and marketing plan, but it is hardly sufficient.

Volumetric considerations, too, must be taken into account. In this age of a person's media engagements consisting primarily of time spent at an individual's 'passion place,' the resulting landscape of micro niches makes getting the mass required for meeting a volumetric goal a lot more challenging.

What I need is a way to map my audiences across the Web so as to aggregate those micro niches and yield a higher potential customer count.

Claria announced this week that they were going to launch BehaviorLink, a kind of behavioral targeting network in the second quarter of this year. It isn't really a network in the strictest sense, but rather a third-party reseller arrangement that simulates a network buy. This kind of structure will let advertisers take advantage of behavioral targeting capabilities over the whole of their campaign and not just simply site-by-site.

By drawing from the much larger universe of the whole Web versus only that of one media vehicle, advertisers should be able to aggregate enough micro niches based on behavioral characteristics to bring in potential customers in great enough volume to justify the marketing effort.

With companies like Tacoda Systems, Poindexter Systems, and Claria, the means to behaviorally target across a wide swath of media is possible. But until now, media plans could not be put together that would take advantage of this. Claria's first step in this direction is a good one, but it is hardly the only one that needs to be made if planners and buyers are really going to be able to take advantage of behavioral targeting.

If companies like those mentioned above partnered with existing media networks, behavioral targeting could be brought closer than it has been to fulfilling its promise. Networks like BURST! Media or, which provide the reach necessary, in concert with a Poindexter or a Tacoda would finally release the power that behavioral profiling technology promises.

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