Behaving Badly: Standardization and Reach

  |  August 4, 2004   |  Comments

Behavioral targeting is hot, but its industry acceptance is not. Well... not yet at least.

Remember when DoubleClick and Engage (Flycast) dabbled in behavioral targeting, back in the day? Well, everything coincidentally faded away with the implosion of the dot-com economy; as agencies struggled to keep themselves afloat, behavioral targeting was probably the least of their concerns. It was difficult enough just to convince clients to buy 468 x 60 banners.

Awakening from its four-year hibernation (since the dot-bomb) behavioral targeting has reemerged as one of the darlings in the online space today. It's turning heads once again. However, despite its recent popularity, behavioral targeting's current growth is still plagued by the two fundamental media components: standardization and reach.

Will the Real Behavioral Targeting Please Stand Up?

Standardization is an indication, and a natural result, of mass adoption. And to be honest, behavioral targeting is still far from reaching any critical mass in terms of industry confirmation. One of the main reasons is we have yet to reach an industry definition of what behavioral targeting really is.

Currently, multiple vendors are using different technologies and selling them as "behavioral targeting." Some vendors use clickstream data as the basis of defining behavior. Others use IP address and personal identifiable information (PII) as the foundation. Some focus on the frequency of consumers' online activity, while others argue recency is a much more accurate indication of a "behavior."

Take Tacoda and 24/7 Real Media. These two have very different approaches to behavioral targeting. Tacoda's Audience Management System profiles users with predefined characteristics and traits provided by the network's publishers. 24/7 uses proprietary Insight ACT to track users' clickstream and movements within its network to monitor patterns and infer "behavior." Companies such as Revenue Science, Atlas DMT, and Drivepm (the last two under the aQuantive umbrella) have their own proprietary technology, as do many emergent players that also have their own perceived solutions of this targeting capability.

So who's who, and what's what again?

If you're as curious as I am, you'd ask, Who's better and more accurate? Depends who you ask. To be honest, probably no one knows at the moment. We have yet to reach a level of standardization at which we can impartially compare vendors.

Out of Site, Out of Mind

Reach is the Golden Ticket in a Wonka Bar for us media folks who constantly try to find ways into that chocolate factory of consumer delights. It provides access to consumers' mental agendas and leads to a world of advertising opportunities. It's one of the most essential, critical considerations for both branding and direct response campaigns, regardless of client or industry.

To be specific, reach simply translates into the size of the accessible unique audience.

Regardless of technology used and tracking methodology, current behavioral targeting vendors are all subject to the same challenge when it comes to reach: It's limited to the physical size of vendors' own networks. Thus, actual "reach" is only as broad as their current realities.

For example, Tacoda's primary expansion method rests on publishers' allegiance to its technology and participation in the network. 24/7, whose status as one of the largest online properties since gaining control over Lycos' sales management, still only represents a minority portion of the Web traffic. In essence, behavioral targeting vendors' current challenge is "out of site, out of mind." Unless one is within the company's own network of sites, the user's online behaviors cannot be monitored and tracked.

What Does This Mean for Online Media?

Behavioral targetingis in a stage of transition and evolution. If we apply the product life cycle to behavioral targeting -- introduction, growth, maturity, and decline -- it's barely at the mid-point of introduction. Until we come to a unanimous industry decision on the premise and definition of behavioral targeting, we still have a long way to go before knowing whether it's a genuine stride that will advance the industry to the next level.

From the agency perspective, we are in constant search to discovery the next "big thing" to wow and pitch to the clients. Behavioral targetingis taking the industry by storm again because it has potential to offer advertiser a seemingly perfect panacea in the ever-crowding online space: ubiquitous and relevant advertising to the most targeted audience. Yet we must not forget the fact that, currently, behavioral targeting is in a fledgling state of growth. Considering its fragmented platform, current deficiencies in standardization and reach, and the lack of industry-wide adoption, behavioral targeting hasn't even hit puberty. There's much to learn.

ClickZ Live Chicago Join the Industry's Leading eCommerce & Direct Marketing Experts in Chicago
ClickZ Live Chicago (Nov 3-6) will deliver over 50 sessions across 4 days and 10 individual tracks, including Data-Driven Marketing, Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email. Check out the full agenda and register by Friday, August 29 to take advantage of Super Saver Rates!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andy Chen

Based in London, Andy Chen is vice president of digital solutions for Viacom Brand Solutions(VBS) International. Prior to Viacom, Andy was the media strategy director at Carat International/Isobar, which handles global media and digital strategies for Philips, Renault, Adidas, and various other multinational clients.

A true advocate for global integration and strategy, Andy has lived and worked in Copenhagen and Stockholm, where he was a management consultant for the Swedish Advertising Association. He received his BA from University of California, Berkeley; and a MBA in international marketing and global management from Stockholm University, School of Business. Named one of the "20 Rising Media Stars to Watch in 2004" by "Media Magazine," Andy is a frequent international conference speaker on digital and interactive media. He published his first collaborative book, "The Changing Communication Paradigm," in November 2005.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

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

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

BigDoor: The Marketers Guide to Customer Loyalty

The Marketer's Guide to Customer Loyalty
Customer loyalty is imperative to success, but fostering and maintaining loyalty takes a lot of work. This guide is here to help marketers build, execute, and maintain a successful loyalty initiative.

Marin Software: The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising

The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising
Latest research reveals 68% higher revenue per conversion for marketers who integrate their search & social advertising. In addition to the research results, this whitepaper also outlines 5 strategies and 15 tactics you can use to better integrate your search and social campaigns.

Resources

Jobs

    • Sales Planner
      Sales Planner (Verve ) - New YorkAbout Verve   Verve is the leader in location powered mobile advertising. We manage one of the largest mobile...
    • Systems Analyst/Support
      Systems Analyst/Support (Agora Inc. ) - BaltimoreIRIS (Increased Revenue Intuitive Software ) is proprietary software that helps marketers...
    • Client Services Support Specialist
      Client Services Support Specialist (Agora Inc. ) - Delray Beach OVERVIEW:  This position requires a highly motivated and resourceful individual...