A Little Mis-Behavin'

In last week’s column, I wrote about how behavioral targeting has become an accepted method of reaching an audience; if not always in practice, at least the concept when raised in a planning session is taken seriously.

I also considered, in brief, some of the downsides of getting too specific with one’s method of targeting; that volumetric considerations should be brought to bear on the setting of communication delivery goals (reach and frequency primary among them) and should therefore temper enthusiasm for over specifying a potential target’s behavioral characteristics. If you get too precise with your targeting criteria it is possible to end up with too few potential consumers from which to make a business. Or you might simply not get any at all.

My musings took me over what kinds of media properties could best satisfy marketers’ desire for better methods of targeting with enough reach to make employing those methods worthwhile. The kinds of properties that came most immediately to mind were networks.



Well, needless to say, the PR professionals and marketing mavens of online media networks everywhere took to the march to inform me that the media companies they represent have, indeed, deployed -- or, as is sometimes the case, plan to deploy – behavioral marketing technologies to better target audiences based on behavioral, rather than demographic criteria.

The explanation for my not knowing this could be that for the last three weeks, I’ve been out of the media buying and planning game. That’s right; after 10 long years, I’ve bowed out of agency life to catch up on all the matters of culture important to me and do things I’ve always wanted to do, but lacked the time.

I’ve been reading everything from “Dracula” and “The New York Review of Books,” to “A Fan’s Notes” and a graphic novel adaptation of Clive Barker’s “The Thief of Always.”

I’ve spent hours walking through Central Park and the city (still undecided as to whether or not the Gates are art or simply “piles of sheet”).

I’ve caught up on movies I wasn’t able to see like “The Incredibles” (brilliant) and “Habla con Ella” (how to explain the beauty of this film?!).

I’ve finally finished “Max Payne” on Xbox and “Medieval: Total War” and I hope to make it through “Halo” soon so I can get to “Halo 2.”

In a career in advertising and marketing, especially the Internet segment, you spend so much time looking forward you can miss what is right next to you. In short order, those things which were right next to you somehow end up far behind you.

For three weeks I’ve felt no obligation to read every newsletter that celebrates the recent site redesign of some beverage maker or accolades of an old media CEO who professes to believe in accountability. Maybe it was in this brief period of time that announcements about media networks have signed on with behavioral targeting concerns.

But as certain press releases were brought to my attention, it seems that such matters were in the public sphere before my self-imposed advertising news moratorium. I was also told by one ad network representative that they have even been running advertising to promote their behavioral targeting.

What we all learned are two things: I rarely read PR and if I do, it doesn’t seem to stick; and online trade advertising aimed at media planners and buyers is easy to ignore if it comes as a horizontal banner, either 468x60 or 728x90.

So, quickly, let me tell you what I’ve learned since last week’s column:

  1. BURST! Media signed on with Tacoda late last spring in order to bring behavioral targeting to their advertisers. Advertisers will be able to target audiences found throughout the BURST! Media network based on behavioral selects of their choosing. It would appear, then, that the folks at BURST agree with me, as I mentioned last week a network like BURST would benefit greatly from employing behavioral targeting technology.
  2. Since first being capable of behavioral targeting using the bits and pieces of Personify’s site profiling, in October of 2004 signed on with Tacoda to do their behavioral targeting. The question I ask is, will this render otherwise regularly unsold inventory more valuable by assigning it to a behavioral profile? Is the audience large enough and variable enough?
  3. 24/7 Real Media also employs both Tacoda and Revenue Science in concert with their homegrown tool that comes out of Open AdStream, to enable behavioral targeting. They claim nearly 700 (yes, 700!) different attributes and values usable for the purposes of targeting. The width and breadth possible by virtue of being a large network makes tools like the aforementioned perfect for behaviorally targeting audiences. But can behavior for the purposes of marketing really be identified by some 700 different characteristics? Media planners and buyers would need some kind of tome packed with targeting definitions along the lines of the DSM-IV in order to proceed with a campaign. Choice is good, but the paradox is that too much choice leaves us feeling empty and creates greater opportunity for error.

There you have it, a very small sampling of those entities that are committed to behavioral targeting. There are many more, in particular national newspaper and local media networks (some of which are clients of behavioral marketing technology providers) and the Big Three portals.

Behavioral targeting and marketing is certain to become a bigger and bigger part of how advertisers get their message to the appropriate audiences. But just like search, it is not a necessary or sufficient condition for marketing success. It is but one tactic among many needed to achieve success.

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