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Audience, Context, and Semantics

  |  September 20, 2011   |  Comments   |  

Consider these approaches to audience targeting.

We live in a new age for digital marketers. The landscape and technology that underpins it are moving and evolving beneath our feet. The future it seems belongs to the audience. Where we have previously been limited to targeting against content verticals, we are now moving away from this to a number of approaches that should yield superior results.

We can't get there by abandoning the content. Well... not entirely anyway.

Let's think for a moment about targeting the user. The future we are being offered promises to reach out to "anonymomised" individuals (identified by cookies) who have specific attributes that we (or the technology's algorithms) feel are the best audience for reaching the campaign goals. These individuals are then grouped by these desired attributes and made available as targets for later campaigns.

The attributes that are appended to the cookie are most likely behavioural. That the cookie was observed performing some form of desired behaviour on the advertiser's website becomes the indicator of this behaviour. It could also be the content that the cookie was looking at before they visited the advertiser's site that provided the attribute. Arriving at the advertiser's website via particular search keywords from a search engine also attach valuable behavioural attributes.

Content is not down and out. In fact, we now get a chance to use the content in deeper and more interesting ways. In advertising, we care very much where our ads will appear. We have always been able to control the environment by working with quality publishers but there has been very little ability to control the context beyond vertical content sections or subject specific websites. There has been very little control over keeping ads off the bad pages on good sites.

Ad verifications companies like Peer39 and DoubleVerify help brands with these quality issues. They evaluate if the site is safe for advertising and can look at quality issues such as ad placement and context.

Context is great but things can be better. Just getting the context right can still lead to some unwanted results. A story about Christmas that referenced a family around the warmth of a fire is very different to a story about a hotel on fire. One is perfectly good content for a hotel client the other is definitely not.

So we have Semantic targeting technologies that can tell the difference between a fire in a hotel and a fire in a fireplace. These technologies find pages that are bad for the advertiser (even on good sites) and specifically block their ads from appearing there.

Content on the Internet can also be looked at in another way, as pages. From a performance marketing point of view, we can identify pages that drive results and target those pages more aggressively for the advertiser.

The thing that breathes life into this change of approach is Real Time Bidding (RTB). With RTB we can make targeting decisions "on the fly". We can look (in real-time) at the opportunities we have to deliver the advertising one impression at a time. We can target cookies, target semantic context and even target pages. We can attribute a value we wish to pay for these opportunities and then "bid" for the impressions we want. Hugely eliminating waste in campaigns.

From the creative side these improvements afford us the ability to segment the messaging within a campaign, in far more granular ways. For instance, messaging people who have not been to the advertiser's website with an introduction/branding message. Then we could target those cookies that have been to the website with a specific offer about what they were interested in. You could even have a different message to attract returning customers like upgrades or extended warranties. These are just some of many things that the creative side of the business can bring to media buying in this new age.

It is all about getting the right advertisement, in the right environment and context, to the right user on the best performing pages. And that is just a matter of observation, media reach, and technology.


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Matt Harty

Originally from Australia, Matt has lived in Asia for over 20 years. He started in the Internet in 1997 as the co-founder and employee No. 1 for SpaceAsia Media, the first Pan-Asian ad network founded in Asia. SpaceAsia sold in 2000 to Engage Inc. (CMGi) with Matt staying on after the sale. In 2003, he founded Activ8 Worldwide as a JV with Outblaze Ltd, which handled global media sales for Mail.com, Sanrio Digital (Hello Kitty), the Opera browser, plus a number of other leading brands. After the sale of Activ8's primary assets, Matt took a board director's seat on the Malaysia listed Oriented Media Group Berhad. In 2009, he took a position at News Corporation's FOX Networks as VP, Asia Pacific and Middle East. He is now general manager at Accuen, part of Annalect, Omnicom Media Group's business unit to lead the trading desk in Asia. Connect with Matt on Google+.

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