Most behavioral targeting works by offering advertisers a menu of in-market buyers: Ford can target Tacoda's car shoppers, Expedia can reach Yahoo!'s imminent travelers, Hitachi can buy Revenue Science's home entertainment enthusiasts, and so on.
With its 2.0 release, announced yesterday at the Ad:tech conference in New York, mammoth ad network AdBrite has signaled a different tack, using cookie-based behavioral data to fine tune targeting on demographics rather than on purchase likelihood.
The company will do this by assigning individual Web users a probable age and gender based on their recent Web activity within its network. That data is supplemented with race and income information it gets by marrying U.S. census information to IP-based geographical information. Additional site-based user data comes from comScore.
The change is part of a back-end upgrade that turns the ad network into a cost-per-click auction platform of the sort that powers Google's AdSense, Quigo, and Yahoo Publisher Network. Modes of targeting other than behavioral and demographic include channel, keyword, geography and site quality. Ad units include banner and interstitial units, with video, mobile and inline ads in the works. AdBrite is ranked 11th among U.S. online ad networks, according to comScore Media Metrix, with 61 million unique visitors or 35 percent of the online populace.
AdBrite hasn't yet gone live with the behavioral information it's using to assign age and gender information to Web surfers, since it still has to settle questions of how many site visits are needed to establish demographic trends with any certainty. For instance, if a site's audience is known to be 70 percent male and 30 percent female, a single user visit offers only a hint of that person's likely gender. However, three or four visits to predominantly male sites makes a male result more likely.
AdBrite's upgrade also comes with an offer to publishers that it will substitute higher paying ads from other networks -- including Google's AdSense -- on sites that carry its ad code. By guaranteeing that site owners "won't make less" with AdBrite than they will with a competing network, the company plans to achieve two goals. First, it will increase the number of sites carrying its code and -- probably -- running its ads. Second, it will be able to use its larger publisher network to drop more cookies on user desktops, and thereby grow its behavior-enhanced demographic dataset.
Founder and President of Products Philip Kaplan says the enhancements are part of a broader goal of improving transparency and targeting for advertisers and publishers alike. To that end, advertisers can obtain lists of every site where their ads are running -- something most other huge networks do not provide -- and cancel sites at will.
"For advertisers who are into branding, they need to know... exactly where their ad is running," said Kaplan.
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Until March 2012, Zach Rodgers was managing editor of ClickZ's award-winning coverage of news and trends in digital marketing. He reported on the rise of web companies, data markets, ad technologies, and government Internet policy, among other subjects.
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