I don't like making New Year's predictions on a digital platform--mainly because it is way too easy for readers to dig up the archives and hold me to them a year later. Print is so much more, well, conveniently disposable.
A safer way to look ahead to 2007 in behavioral marketing is to appropriate some of the field's own terminology and "target" the trends worth watching. Interviewing dozens of agencies, publishers, and tech providers in the past year planted a few cookies in my brain. These are segments I plan to stalk and hit multiple times as they traverse the next year.
Get Out of My Head!
BT has had a privacy honeymoon until now. Generally it has worked under the radar of most consumers, but that is about to change. As the technique becomes more prevalent, and as search engines start getting more seriously into tracking by behavior, BT is going to get scrutinized. Tacoda's Dave Morgan and AlmondNet's Roy Shkedi have already called attention to the potential for a backlash and the need to be proactive. Look for interviews in this space in the coming weeks with executives in BT about their stand on privacy.
Segments, Segments, Everywhere
Even the media buyers who embrace BT still complain that it is too tough a buy, with segments and methodologies defined differently across networks and publishers. Some players feel the network approach is the only way to achieve the kind of scale BT needs. You need multiple publishers to attract bigger brands and create a display ad network that has the targeting and reach of search. Some publishers are dedicated to their standalone solutions that apply BT only within their own pages, even if it doesn't always scale well. One way to make the market simpler and the network bigger is for one or two of these guys to buy one another out and consolidate the technology. At some point a couple of these players have to get married.
Is That a Cookie in Your Pocket?
Mobile carriers are sitting on one of the fattest, highest, most granular piles of consumer behavior data the world has ever known. And most of them haven't a clue how to use it as a foundation for media and marketing. Sprint's media group recently hinted that it would be using some kind of behavioral targeting in its newly launched ad networks for phone media, but I am not sure what, if any, form that will take. At a mobile marketing conference last spring, Cingular/AT&T's content honcho Jim Ryan admitted it had incredibly detailed data for marketers --but not in a form they could access in any meaningful way yet.
In the mobile world, parsing your client base by over and under age 34 is still considered nano-segmentation. The possibilities for BT off someone's commercial calling patterns is as scary as it is enticing. How much would Pizza Hit pay to get a coupon on the phone of the guy who calls Domino's once a week? How much would Domino's pay to keep Pizza Hut's coupon from its customer? Wisely, the carriers will not give up that user or that data without due diligence over its consequences. But the irony is that carriers need BT more than any other medium. That phone deck is the world's worst interface because it is so small and so dumb. Personalized, dynamic content served to my flip phone is the inevitable solution, but tracking my phone browser behaviors may be the best way to customize the user deck according to user habits.
MSN or/and Windows Live Search (I cannot keep up with the rebranding over there) is already using search histories as part of a user's overall profile for targeting. How search combines with BT in many different ways is going to be a cookie to track in 2007. Even without the engines themselves providing products, vendors like AlmondNet and Revenue Science offer post-search solutions that tag and track inbound search traffic and then segment users from there. No offense to the good technologists at MSN, who are making AdCenter into a remarkably flexible engine that I hope serves ads into my Xbox 360 some day. But until Google starts leveraging those billions of search histories into display and text ads across a network, we're still testing.
And we're still targeting and testing our aim here at Behavioral Insider. Any trends you want us to track? Let us know.