Tying the Knot With Behavioral Targeting

  |  December 7, 2005   |  Comments

Behavioral targeting from the consumer's perspective -- and what marketers can learn from it.

My initial experience as a behavioral targeting recipient was in December 2004, while I was preparing for my wedding. For the next several weeks, I must have viewed 700 ads from one particular bridal advertiser. About 75 percent of the ads were for wedding dresses and 25 percent were for veils. To confirm I was being behaviorally targeted, I refreshed my cookies midpoint and repeated the process. Sure enough, there were the same banners, which had become fixtures in my mailbox.

As marketers, it's easy to disconnect from the consumer experience. So for better or worse, here are my thoughts on behavioral targeting after experiencing it as the consumer.

Match Made in Heaven

Over 2.2 million newly engaged couples enter the U.S. marketplace each year and, as a result, enter the biggest spending period of their lives. For marketers, this is a huge behavioral targeting opportunity. Not only are consumers in-market for various services and products, they're also using the Internet to research and purchase these services.

Like most soon-to-be brides, I started on well-known bridal sites, such as WeddingChannel.com, The Knot, and Modern Bride. I also visited other sites for products I was now in-market for, including a new car, furniture, and travel. Throughout the process, I maintained regular access to my established list of bookmarked sites for email, news, and weather.

As a result of my behavior, I was the perfect candidate for behavioral targeting. Any savvy advertiser (such as the one who targeted me) would jump on the opportunity for the following reasons:

  • Based on my online behavior, I was in-market.

  • Although I visited bridal-endemic sites, return visits would likely be sporadic. That would limit the opportunity to communicate with me in these environments.

  • By behaviorally targeting me, additional opportunities were created for increased communication in areas I often frequented.

'Till Death Do Us Part

'Till death do us part may work in wedding vows, but beware of it as an advertising mantra. One fear about behavioral targeting is advertisers will stalk consumers. Such concerns aren't completely unwarranted. In my experience, frequency, messaging, and timing are the three main weaknesses.

Frequency overload, particularly for the same message, was an issue. On any given day, I'd see the same ad at least five times. That's the same ad, day after day, for approximately three months, including one month when I was completely out of market. Frequency caps and reports are critical when employing behavioral targeting.

Message association was also awry. Although I visited a wedding site, I didn't visit the dress or veil section. Therefore, dress and veil ads didn't correspond with my behavior. You wouldn't serve an ad for the Jaguar XJ-Series to someone shopping for a Dodge Neon. Or worse, serve an auto ad to someone searching for a bicycle. If the advertiser is going to make an inference and test an associated message (which isn't always a bad idea), he needs to be extra mindful of consumer reaction (or lack of it) to the ad.

Consumers aren't in-market forever. Even if this advertiser had targeted me after I visited the dress section, it should have been mindful that I wouldn't be shopping indefinitely. One indication would be my lack of response to the ad. Another would have been that I hadn't visited the dress section in months.

Publishers should keep a behavioral profile of customers that shows their evolution. Most engagements last 14 months and follow a similar purchase path, from bridal dress to honeymoons. Publishers should segment groups and offer those segments to advertisers for behavioral targeting. They should continue to update these segments based on timing and new behavior patterns.

In my consumer and marketer experiences, we throw behavioral targeting out there and hope for the best. We must collectively start compiling best practices by category and applying planning principals and technology around them to garner the best results. This type of collaboration is the only way we're going to get consumers to say, "I do."

pro-rank-tracker-logoPro Rank Tracker is a cutting-edge ranking tracking tool for keeping you up-to-date with all the latest changes in the rankings of your websites and videos.


Anna Papadopoulos

Based in New York, Anna Papadopoulos has held several digital media positions and has worked across many sectors including automotive, financial, pharmaceutical, and CPG.

An advocate for creative media thinking and an early digital pioneer, Anna has been a part of several industry firsts, including the first fully integrated campaign and podcast for Volvo and has been a ClickZ contributor since 2005. She began her career as a media negotiator for TBS Media Management, where she bought for media clients such as CVS and RadioShack. Anna earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from St. John's University in New York.

Follow her on Twitter @annapapadopoulo and on LinkedIn.

Anna's ideas and columns represent only her own opinion and not her company's.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Marketing newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!



Featured White Papers

US Consumer Device Preference Report

US Consumer Device Preference Report
Traditionally desktops have shown to convert better than mobile devices however, 2015 might be a tipping point for mobile conversions! Download this report to find why mobile users are more important then ever.

E-Commerce Customer Lifecycle

E-Commerce Customer Lifecycle
Have you ever wondered what factors influence online spending or why shoppers abandon their cart? This data-rich infogram offers actionable insight into creating a more seamless online shopping experience across the multiple devices consumers are using.




  • SEO Specialist
    SEO Specialist (Marcel Digital) - ChicagoSearch Engine Optimization (SEO) Specialist   Marcel Digital is an award winning digital marketing...
  • SEO / SEM Manager
    SEO / SEM Manager (CustomInk) - FairfaxAre you a friendly, motivated, and inquisitive individual? Are you a positive, out-going leader? Are you...
  • SEO Analyst
    SEO Analyst (XO Group) - New YorkSEO Analyst @ XO Group About this Job, You and Our Team: The XO Group SEO Team is looking for you, a passionate...