Q&A: Pushing Behavioral to Its Full Potential

Don't be shortsighted about behavioral targeting, says Paul Lewis, senior vice president of sales and marketing at the interactive agency MindComet. Rather than using behavioral technologies to improve return on investment for a single campaign, he'd like to see more advertisers build better relationships between customers and their brands by taking full advantage of information gathered through the behavioral marketing process. Lewis expanded on these thoughts in a recent discussion with the Behavioral Insider.

Behavioral Insider: What is your description of behavioral targeting?

Lewis: When I try to explain it to a client who is new to it and doesn't quite understand the concept, I define it as selective reach and messaging based upon target interests. And I say that those interests may be explicitly stated by the consumer, so they may check a box or indicate in some way that they're an avid golfer, or I may be able to assume that because of information on a Web site where they have gone and viewed articles on golf three times.



BI: So, in addition to actually gathering behavioral information from how users have interacted with a Web site, it's also information they've provided to you?

Lewis: Correct. Many times the user will volunteer that they have an interest in the subject matter, and we'll capture that data as well. There are three views or ways in which we see consumer behavior, and we define those as the macro, micro and personal levels. The micro view is when you work with a particular Web site publisher or online engagement and they track consumers' behavior within that engagement.... At the macro level, that's when we get into the ad networks and there's also desktop tracking... And that's when you really get into the privacy area and people have sort of a raised eyebrow.

BI: Do your clients have concerns about privacy?

Lewis: Absolutely. Some clients I've approached [about] trying to use some of the networks and some of the other things, they're very reluctant.

BI: Is it a broad concern based on the general privacy issues, or is it a reluctance to deal with certain companies?

Lewis: I think it's mainly the concern about a potential brand backlash. That they could be perceived, if that network of that company had gotten specifically bad publicity and their advertisements were brought up as an example, they don't want to have their brand dragged into it. Those solutions are really good solutions. But they're often great for clients that are promoting specific products that maybe don't have the brand equity yet in the marketplace that some of our other clients have; and therefore, they're not as guarded about how and where they use their brand.

BI: And that gets us into the idea of what is behavioral targeting better for - who's using it? Is it better for the more direct response kind of marketing?

Lewis: Right now that's exactly how we're seeing the marketplace. In a stereotypical sense, generally brand advertisers are going for what I call micro or personal behavioral targeting. And what I mean by personal, is the brand itself is actually keeping data about where consumers come from or what their interests are.

Where we see the macro level resonate the most is with clients that are most concerned about driving results, return on investment and price points. To this day, they've been a little less concerned about brand. And I think that is going to change over time. I think more privacy will be put in place; I think perceptions will change.

BI: Can you give me some examples of clients that have used behavioral?

Lewis: For Earthlink, maybe we would go to a site and we would look for people who read articles about video games. When they hit the landing page, that landing page wouldn't be the generic homepage. We would have them go to a specific landing page that obviously would highlight Earthlink's high-speed Internet connection and how it's perfect for video game players.

That's what I think that most of the clients miss. They're not using the true power of BT [behavioral targeting]. Here are the two most common mistakes that I see: number one is. the advertisement is identical. They just use BT to segment the marketplace. And the second thing is, they don't capture that information....I'll come into a client and they'll say, 'We have 100,000 names.' And I'll go, 'Where did the names come from?' And they'll say, 'Oh, I don't know. They signed up at the Web site or something.'

They're trying to use BT solely as a way of getting better return on investment in their generic online advertising. and their missing at least 50 percent of the boat with that.

BI: Is it partially a matter of not using the technologies that they already have in place, or is it the fact that there's much more investment involved here that they're not willing to get into?

Lewis: Typically it's a very small investment. I look at it as pennies on the dollar. They've already made the big investments. Usually the big investments are the media buys. When clients come back with, 'Hey is this what I want to do?' I say, 'When you bombard your customers with generic messages, that's when you really irritate them.' What you have to do is stay relevant and show that customer they're important enough that you're actually listening, and you're creating a true dialogue with the consumer where what they tell or show you is important, is actually important to you.

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