Targeting could be considered the Holy Grail of media online buying, such is its promise. That's why newcomers and old-timers alike are introducing new technologies designed to enhance targeting capabilities.
Last week, I addressed the issue of online targeting. I discussed some of the ways in which we reach our desired audiences and looked at some predictions about the future of buying targeted media. With a subject as vast as consumer targeting, however, those aspects are just the tip of the iceberg. Finding new ways to accurately and effectively reach an advertiser's target market is a mammoth business. Being first to market with the latest and trendiest method of targeting is what drives many publishers and ad networks. It's a competition that buyers revel in, as we're always on the lookout for ways to optimize campaign results in our zeal to find the most cost-effective and successful targeting system.
Many of the proposals and demos that we see promote standard and uninspired targeting systems, polished up and redefined with flashy new names that inevitably include buzz phrases such as "strategic consumer identification and acquisition" and "enhanced targeting technology." We get rehashed versions of existing concepts and see a distinct lack of focus on the services and capabilities that buyers are really looking for. But there are always some exceptions. Some companies out there are determined to rise above the rest and are taking innovative approaches to help them do it.
Start-ups such as Adrelief are taking targeting by site content a step further. Based on the idea of "run of page" targeting, this company's technology matches the advertiser's ad copy and the appropriate redirect URL to the content featured on the site page the ad appears on. A content match can be made based on targets such as industry, category, subcategory, age, and gender and can help the advertiser to differentiate her company from competitors whose ad messages may not be as relevant to the content on the page.
This system seems to engage the same theory that has made pay-per-search and keyword advertising so popular -- the idea that getting in front of a consumer while your industry/product/service is at the forefront of his mind will increase the level of response. But it also gives advertisers the freedom to choose the specific sites that they feel best attract their target market, so they're not limited to a search engine placement.
While new technology companies work to establish themselves and attract a loyal following of marketers and advertisers, existing firms look for ways to better their service offerings as well. For example,Google's new spin on the highly targeted pay-per-search advertising model has been the focus of several news stories and articles as of late. As Google strives to get ahead in the game, however, Overture, now its main competition, has yet to retaliate by addressing some of its own targeting limitations.
So far, Overture remains the leader in pay per search, continuing to attract online marketers with its results-oriented advertising model and flexible investment plans. But the company has yet to tackle its inability to target based on geographic location, an inadequacy that, for buyers, is a constant source of frustration. Advertisers who advocate the pay-per-search advertising model but who need to geotarget Canadian consumers, for example, have little choice but to adapt their ad copy in an attempt to make it obvious that they are addressing this market and this market only. How well this actually works, however, isn't easy to determine, and, should this approach fail, an advertiser can quickly and easily exhaust his budget on unqualified consumers. If Overture could find a way to give advertisers targeting options such as this, I'm sure that its position in the marketplace would be cemented. And now that Google is hot on its trail, a little boost in service capabilities wouldn't hurt.
There are endless new targeting systems in development at this very moment, and any one of them could become the next big trend in online marketing (not to mention the object of a media buyer's dreams). We can try to predict the future, but testing out these new systems and formulating judgements based on personal experience is the only reliable way to narrow down the players in this competitive business. But as we do so, we mustn't forget the importance of our post-media buy labors. Online targeting is just as much about campaign analysis as it is about choosing the right placements. Without a thorough understanding of how your audience acts online and how your placements are performing, it's impossible to know whether your targeting efforts are working. And knowing what works is the key to success.
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Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.
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