Dynamic E-mail and Banner Ads

  |  June 13, 2008   |  Comments

Three examples of technologies that enable personalized ads.

Last time, we talked about geo-targeting and how your Web site and marketing efforts can take advantage of knowing the user's location. Some companies will benefit from simply knowing the user's general location. Others can do much more sophisticated marketing by knowing exactly where the user is (down to a street level) at that very moment. In addition to geo-targeting, the technology now exists to create personalized banner ads based on all kinds of information about a user.

I received several e-mails asking me to detail how to do this type of targeting. So, today we'll look at a few technologies enabling this level of personalization in ads.


Advertising at BedBathStore is localized based on your general location. For instance, I see ads specific to New York when I log in. The company behind this is Sitebrand. Using its Web Personalization Channel, BedBathStore can target content or ads based on the user's location, and behavior within the site. The site could even create dynamic promotions in a different language if the geo-targeting system told the platform that a different language was native to the user's region.

Yahoo Smart Ads

Knowing a user's location and behavior is the first step. A system needs to be in place that can take that data, mash it together, and create a graphical ad that contains all the relevant information.

On the Yahoo Network, one such technology is Smart Ads. A Smart Ads demo shows a standard graphic banner ad that offers a user tickets from California to Las Vegas. It seems like any other ad, but this ad is personalized based on the behavior of this user. Had the person previously searched for plane tickets to Boston, this ad would have offered tickets to Boston.

While the creative team behind this marketing campaign had to create only one physical ad, the system dynamically turns this ad into an infinite number of specific messages based on what they know about a user. While this example was based on a previous search, one could imagine that geo-targeting would automatically let this ad know where the user was from. That's a start if it doesn't know anything else about the user. Of course, Smart Ads work on the Yahoo Network only, which is a limiting factor to the technology's usefulness.

Not Just Banner Ads, E-mail Ads, Too

An exciting new technology is surfacing that lets this type of personalization of graphical ads get to a whole new level. A company called Sympact is enabling dynamically changing graphic ads based on mash-ups of any kind of external data.

One of their examples is an e-mail about a new movie. It's one thing to get an e-mail announcing a new movie like "Sex and the City." It's another thing entirely for that graphical ad to include show times at a local movie theater for today and tomorrow. Moreover, because these ads are dynamic, a user who goes back to look at that e-mail next week will see updated show times based on the current date, not the date the e-mail was sent out.

What excites me about this technology is e-mails are rendered in real time. That means if you open the same e-mail next week, the ad might be different. Imagine a whole new kind of e-mail campaign based on this.

For instance, some companies send out a "12 Days of Christmas" promotion, where each day they deliver a new e-mail with a different special. Instead, what if you send one e-mail and tell the user to look at it each day. Every day it updates to the current special.

Or what about promotion codes e-mailed to people? They probably save the e-mail, and then the promotion is expired by the time they use it. What if the promotion code is always updated to reflect current promotions?

This ability to do multi-stage campaigns with a single e-mail over time opens up a whole new level of e-mail marketing.

Thoughts, comments, questions? Let me know.

Until next time...



Jack Aaronson

Jack Aaronson, CEO of The Aaronson Group and corporate lecturer, is a sought-after expert on enhanced user experiences, customer conversion, retention, and loyalty. If only a small percentage of people who arrive at your home page transact with your company (and even fewer return to transact again), Jack and his company can help. He also publishes a newsletter about multichannel marketing, personalization, user experience, and other related issues. He has keynoted most major marketing conferences around the world and regularly speaks at Shop.org and other major industry shows. You can learn more about Jack through his LinkedIn profile.

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