Behavioral Targeting Gets Smart

While waiting for previews to begin before “Fracture,” I heard, “Who in the world doesn’t want to be smart?” blaring from the screen. Immediately paranoia sets in as I glance at my lap: popcorn, Skittles, a Coke, and a hotdog (which I was holding for my husband, thank you). OK, not the smartest move for day one of my diet. “Stop picking on me,” I grumbled to the screen. Then images of Albert Einstein, Presidents John F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the professor from “Gilligan’s Island” appeared on the screen. I’m sure they indulged once in a while.

The cinema ads are part of Hyundai Motor America‘s new “Smart” campaign. In the spirit of being smart, the campaign has a clever online extension: an advertising program between Hyundai and Reuters called “Smart Thinking.” I had an opportunity to get the scoop from Reuters regarding this new advertising platform, which seemed to correlate with behavioral targeting.

Anna Papadopoulos: What is “Smart Thinking”?

Reuters: Smart thinking is an aggregation of news stories centered on specific themes and content. Advertisers get to choose the categories. For example, in the Hyundai campaign the following three categories were identified:

  • Greater good. Focus on individuals who are implementing and associating with programs benefiting their communities (e.g., charity involvement).
  • Smart living. Tips and insights that make life easier and more productive and rewarding (e.g., finance tips, health tips, etc.).
  • Edutainment. Education in an entertaining/more technologically engaging manner (e.g., educating consumers regarding technology, home improvements, etc.).

AP: How does it work?

Reuters: Stories filed by Reuters’ journalists are dynamically filtered into standard categories as they are filed. For Hyundai, we built an algorithm of keywords and phrases that identify relevant Smart stories, placing them into a queue for Hyundai. After an editor approves the feed, the story loads onto a customized Hyundai page template online. So if the story appears in Technology, once readers click on the headline they’re taken out of the standard Technology [page], where other advertising might appear, [and] into an environment customized for Hyundai. The same story also appears with Hyundai Smart branding on Reuters Mobile and on the Reuters sign in Times Square.

AP: What’s the motivation behind its development?

Reuters: The agency, Carat Fusion in Los Angeles, asked us if they could target the three Smart content sets efficiently and developed a virtual brand channel, enabling them to pull relevant stories only out of the various content categories (Tech, Entertainment, etc.) into an environment of exclusive Hyundai ownership.

AP: What are the advantages of Smart Thinking?

Reuters: It allows Hyundai to “own” (i.e., exclusive sponsorship “brought to you by”) any story on that is related to their Smart Thinking categories, regardless of whether the story appears in the Entertainment, World, or Business sections. This greatly increases efficiency in reach.

AP: What are the challenges?

Reuters: Our ongoing challenge is making sure the algorithm tags Smart stories accurately. News is extremely dynamic, and current events necessitate ongoing adjustments to ensure inappropriate stories don’t make it through the feed. This is why a manual approval process is also included. We think it’s working well in reaching our audience of affluent business professionals whenever they are reading this content.

AP: How is it performing?

Reuters: The Hyundai feed includes content across all categories of Reuters, so Hyundai is effectively reaching 7 million unique business professionals. This is a branding campaign for Hyundai, and the Reuters program also includes branding and cross-platform-effectiveness studies. These are currently underway.

AP: Who else is using it?

Reuters: Hyundai is the premiere advertiser for the virtual brand channel execution. The ability to exclusively own narrowly defined cross content is also being offered to other advertisers.

AP: How does syndication work?

Reuters: Readers who click on “Smart” stories are also offered the opportunity to subscribe to an RSS feed of “Smart Thinking” stories. In addition, Hyundai has copublishing rights to the Smart feed and may elect to feature headlines in other online creative they develop.

AP: How is the content that’s aggregated decided upon?

Reuters: Except for the RSS feed, the content is never actually aggregated in one place (i.e., it never ends up on a microsite). The content is filtered out, the page template is changed, and Hyundai owns the story wherever it drops. The advertising seeks the target rather than having the target seek the advertising.

My thanks to Reuters for taking the time to talk to me. It sees “Smart Thinking” more as contextual targeting than behavioral targeting; however, the strategy is very much grounded in the principles of behavioral targeting. Like behavioral targeting, it identifies desired actions and interests, then targets consumers based on these attributes regardless of where they are on a site.

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