Behavioral’s Missing Link?

Several weeks ago, I received an email from a friend of mine who currently lives in Reykjavik, Iceland. He’s been trying to move back to New York City for the past six months. While he loves living in Reykjavik, his biggest complaint has always been that he feels like he sees the same people day in, day out. To put this in perspective, the city of Reykjavik has a population of around 150,000. This number rises to about 180,000 when you factor in the neighboring communities. In comparison, New York City has a little over 8 million people.

What does this have to do with behavioral targeting? Honestly, very little. However, I wanted to illustrate the fact that larger cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles tend to attract newer movies, trends, arts and music as opposed to a US city that has roughly the same population as Reykjavik.

When looking at behavioral targeting, I wonder if it’s not getting the Boise, Idaho treatment (population c. 476,659 ). As discussed earlier, a lot of publisher sales reps just don’t see the point in selling behavioral targeting at this point in time because they don’t see the need for it.

In some ways, behavioral targeting is seen as an incremental opportunity, or a means to an end. Thus, if an agency is pushing for it, it will be included in a buy, but it’s not something being actively pursued by those on the sales side. I’ve even heard that since many sales reps are meeting their sales goals, there’s even less incentive to push for it. So either way, it becomes DOA (dead on arrival).

That’s why I was very excited to hear about Claria’s BehaviorLink. Yes, Claria is a company carrying some excess baggage right now. I’ll be the first to admit they’re an opportunity I’ve never recommended to a client. Yet BehaviourLink seems to carry none of that excess baggage, and if it delivers on it’s promising, this could very well be the kick in the rear behavioral targeting needs to jumpstart in 2005.

For those unfamiliar with the new product, BehaviourLink is similar to other ad networks in the way the inventory is bought and sold. What makes it different is that the ads are served to consumers based on category interests determined by anonymous behavior at a number of sites across the Internet. Therefore, there are some major advantages to BehaviorLink that don’t exist in other behavioral targeting models.

These advantages include the potential to scale as high or as low as necessary, and the ability to use multiple site behavioral data. Sure, other behavioral companies such as Tacoda Systems and 24/7 Media already have networks (or are in the process of launching them). Yet most behavioral targeting companies have a core business model that focuses on having individual sites sell the behavioral inventory. Ad networks that have incorporated behavioral targeting still face the problem of sharing behavioral data across multiple sites.

I’m curious to see what types of sites will partner with Claria. Will it be the branded, tier one sites such as Weather.com, or sites like Hamsterdance?

Chances are, it will be a combination of the two, like most networks already are. While I don’t like to rave about a particular service or product, BehaviourLink could very well change the way behavioral targeting is bought. While it’s obvious that Claria stands to benefit most from this, behavioral targeting will benefit overall because there will no longer be that reliance on sites having to sell the inventory.

I’m eager to see how this thing pans out when they start selling it in Q2 this year.

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