Verticals Learn To Get Horizontal

An astronomical percentage of car buyers use the Web as their No. 1 resource of information for new car purchases, and auto advertisers have long recognized the imperative of getting in front of all those consumers. And aggregating the category content to accommodate them has made auto content among the most lucrative online verticals. Joe Kyriakoza, vice president of product development for Jumpstart Automotive Media, one of the industry's premier verticals, explains below why the next step for verticals is likely to be horizontal--that is, finding ways of effectively reaching and targeting auto buyers in non-automotive venues as well.

Behavioral Insider: What are some of the unique challenges and benefits to targeting within the auto vertical?

Kyriakoza: Automakers have long recognized that they have a more complicated sales cycle to deal with than most consumer brands. Research shows there is typically an eight- to 12-week period in which car buyers move from casually scoping out potential cars to amassing competitive information and details, to narrowing down their choices to contacting a dealer to finally making a purchase. The challenge, of course, has always been to find as many critical touch points as possible to communicate with buyers--and, if you can do that, to put the most relevant and timely message in front of them, depending on where they are in the process.



BI: Specialty content targeting has been the most common targeting method used by auto advertisers thus far. Where do you see behavioral targeting fitting in?

Kyriakoza: Certainly there is a rich arena of auto specialty sites with which to do targeting, related to the content consumers are checking out. But it's limited. The problem auto advertisers increasingly face is that when every car maker is targeting the same top-tier auto vertical inventory, the clutter effect is unavoidable. Messages get squeezed out. But at the same time, once you start running ads outside the auto arena, the waste factor kicks in. How do you know beyond educated guessing that you're really reaching car buyers with relevant content when you begin trying to reach them outside your content vertical? That's been a sticking point up till now.

BI: Last week you announced a partnership with ValueClick whereby advertisers on your network could retarget customers throughout ValueClick's network. What's the benefit of that, in your view?

Kyriakoza: Partnering with a diverse non-auto network allows advertisers to use the same kinds of behavioral tools we've employed within the network to systematically follow consumers who've frequented sites within our auto network across that boundary as they browse other categories. It radically extends the range and possibility of segmenting customers.

BI: What types of targeting and segmenting are employed on Jumpstart?

Kyriakoza: On our network, we currently enable advertisers to target by auto types they've expressed interest in, by specific vehicles, by geographic area, and, very importantly, by where, when, how often or how recently they've visited an advertiser's or even a competitor's Web site. As I said, there's a finite time window for auto sales, so re-targeting prospects at optimal intervals is a vital targeting issue. Do you want to target people who've visited your site in the past eight weeks, the past eight days or the past eight minutes?

BI: What are some directions you could see a more integrated vertical-horizontal targeting take?

Kyriakoza: The next step is to correlate all these auto browsing behaviors by users of our network with browsing behavior in a non-auto environment--be it finance, lifestyle or even entertainment.

BI: How will you and advertisers gauge performance, say in comparison to content targeting?

Kyriakoza: Click-though, of course, is the standard metric--but it's a front-end metric in that it gives you a good gauge on whether an ad is prompting some kind of response by consumers, but not necessarily whether it's getting the right consumers at the right time, whether the goal is doing a special-event promotion, introducing a new model or features, or competitively differentiating your car. That's important because one click-through generally is not enough to sell a car. So really looking at the performance of behavioral will require what we call back-end metrics, which judge how effectively an ad moves a consumer forward in the purchase funnel. Beyond click-throughs, marketing at each phase in the sales funnel will dictate different sets of metrics which can range from things like increasing product awareness to favorability to many other sorts of standards. Everything we do in horizontal targeting will be as performance-based as it is on our vertical.

BI: Where do you see this more horizontal approach leading in the near future for Jumpstart?

Kyriakoza:  We plan to continue to seek out new targeting partnerships with non-auto nets and sites. Incorporating video into the mix is also a goal. Beyond that, we're looking to be responsive to the needs of advertisers as they emerge and evolve.

Next story loading loading..