Behavioral Targeting 2006: The Future Is Here

The future has already arrived. It’s just not evenly distributed yet. –William Gibson, writer

I ran my first behaviorally targeted campaign a year ago. It was for a December automotive sale. It was the first time the media property offered behavioral targeting, and it experienced problems launching the campaign. The campaign consequently ran for a week instead of a month, and results were flat at best.

Fast-forward a year. Again, I was planning a December sales promotion and incorporating behavioral targeting into the campaign. To increase my reach, I included a property that’s offering behavioral for the first time. Guess what happened. The buy ran for a week instead of a month, and results were flat at best.

Thank heavens for forgiving clients.

Has so little changed in a year? Truth is behavioral targeting as a concept has grown strongly since last year. As an execution, however, it still has a long way to go. A few major developments include:

  • Behavioral targeting is included in most proposals (even if it wasn’t directly requested in the RFP).
  • There’s more research regarding behavioral targeting’s effectiveness on both branding and direct response.
  • There’s increased client interest and awareness, particularly among automotive, travel, and financial clients.
  • There’s increased collaboration between niche sites and networks.

Education on behalf of agencies and, subsequently, their clients, is still limited. As a result, we’re presented with the following scenarios as we enter 2006:

  • Scenario 1: Advertiser conducted a small, behaviorally targeted campaign (a.k.a. “a test buy”). It underperformed. Advertiser is now reluctant to ever do it again.
  • Scenario 2: Advertiser is open to behavioral targeting and wants to do it, but the agency (which may not understand it well) has dissuaded its client.
  • Scenario 3: Agency wants to incorporate behavioral targeting into a plan, but the client has reservations because it “doesn’t want to stalk people.”
  • Scenario 4: Advertiser and agency view behavioral targeting as a strategy to help them achieve objectives. They understand it’s still in its infancy, but consider their role as instrumental to its development.

Which scenario does your experience fall into? Whichever, remember your 2006 approach must begin with education. To launch the year right, below are some top developments industry professionals are anticipating for 2006:

  • International growth and adoption: Based on North American adoption, Revenue Science has seen strong growth in the U.K. and Japan. According to Nick Johnson, SVP and general manager of account strategy, “International agencies have been able to research the growth of behavioral targeting and have given a lot of thought to the execution in advance of the technology being available in their market.”
  • Google and behavioral campaigns?: According to Erik Hoogerhuis, VP of North American sales for Commendo Software, “Google will promote behavioral campaigns across the media it controls to combat its lack of historical information on users.” Not so, according Google’s director of advertising sales Patrick Keane, who says Google has no current plans to offer behavioral targeting in 2006; instead, Google will focus on its current suite of targeting capabilities.
  • Increased modeling capabilities: According to Maziar Sattari, product manager for MSN Platform, predictive-modeling behaviors will emerge to target people with a propensity for clicking or converting.

    Furthermore, the ability to offer multiple targeting capabilities will be critical. According to Gary Savoy, East Coast director for DRIVE Performance Media, “Niche providers who offer only one type of targeting [i.e., publisher surfing profile, past search behavior, etc.] will find themselves vulnerable to players that offer a broader array of targeting variables under one roof.”

  • Large-scale buys: Ad networks such asTACODA predict small-scale test buys will become a thing of the past. “We are already seeing huge buys from automotive, technology, travel, and entertainment companies in an ‘upfront nature,'” said Matt Arkin, SVP of advertising sales. “These companies have proven out the methodology from a network perspective.”
  • Enduring confusion: With an influx of companies offering behavioral targeting and its definition constantly evolving, be prepared for additional chaos. The good news is the more you know, the easier it’ll be to interpret the information. And, if you believe what someone once said, “Today, if you are not confused, you are just not thinking clearly,” then 2006 is off to a great start!

Related reading