Microsoft has begun implementing behavioral targeting of display ads on MSN sites.
The behavioral targeting technology will place Web customers into one of 18 segments as dictated by a combination of their online search habits and Web pages visited. Based on their segment, customers will be served display ads that are relevant to their interests.
Some of the segments available for targeting include parents, new/expecting moms, mobile users, power users, gamers and movie watchers. In addition to an auto buyers category, Microsoft breaks out researchers of luxury cars, sports cars, pick-up trucks, SUVs and passenger cars. For travel-related categories, there are segments for hotel, cruise, and airfare seekers. Financial categories include home buyers, credit card shoppers and personal investors.
An advertiser could, for example, choose to show ads to new mothers and parents, and MSN would show the ads to those visitors to any Microsoft sites that have been identified as members of that segment, while showing other ads on the same page for visitors from other segments.
"The benefit is two-fold: Consumers benefit from ads that are relevant to their interests; and advertisers benefit by reaching relevant audiences and increasing ROI," said a Microsoft spokesperson.
Microsoft first previewed the targeting capabilities to select advertisers at its Strategic Accounts Summit in May. Altough these display ads are not yet being served through Microsoft's adCenter platform, they eventually will be. Improved targeting, including behavioral, has been at the core of adCenter since it was first previewed to advertisers last year. The company revealed some of its targeting tools in June, through the adCenter Labs project.
Yahoo has offered behavioral targeting across its network for a few years, first with its Fusion and Impulse offerings, and more recently with new targeting capabilities with segments for "Engagers" and "Shoppers." More behavioral targeting tools are also expected in Yahoo's upcoming Panama search ad platform, expected later this year. For its part, Google has said that it has no plans for behavioral targeting this year, but it's likely to be offered at some point, especially in light of some of its patent applications that reference it.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to clarify that these behaviorally targeted display ads are not yet being served through adCenter.
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Kevin Newcomb joined ClickZ in August 2004, covering search marketing and other online marketing topics. He has been reporting on web-based businesses since 2000.
Before the bubble burst, Kevin was a marketing manager for an online computer reseller, handling copywriting, e-mail marketing, search marketing and running the affiliate program.
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