Catching Up With Industry Veteran Gary Savoy, Part 1

At BusinessEdge Solutions, an industry-focused business and technology consulting firm, Gary Savoy, a solutions partner, is responsible for interactive advertising. He brings over 18 years of experience in traditional and interactive advertising, including extensive experience in the behavioral targeting space. I caught up with him recently on the developments and challenges that affect behavioral targeting today.

Anna Papadopoulos: What are the major developments and challenges you’ve seen in behavioral targeting in the last year?

Gary Savoy: At BusinessEdge Solutions, we are working with Internet service providers on becoming “smart” pipes. As consumers continue to increase the amount of sites they’re visiting, it’s becoming more challenging for networks and marketers to keep up. In 2006, agencies purchased inventory on over 800 sites. In 2007, that number more than doubled to over 1,800. Marketers will have to cast a wider net in order to reach users that have an almost infinite choice of content on the Web. There has been much debate over Net neutrality, but ISPs are in the best position to capture anonymous Web surfing behavior across a user’s entire experience. The recent announcement in the U.K. to launch an ISP targeting consortium by BT, Virgin, and Cellphone Warehouse will be the first step in reaching critical mass for behavioral targeting not only on the Web but across all screens.

AP: How do you see it playing out in the new emerging media platforms, such as social media, video, etcetera?

GS: As data-driven applications and widgets continue to increase in popularity on mobile, broadband, and IPTV, ad-supported content and reduced usage fees will be a key driver in consumer’s willingness to offer up their habits and preferences, allowing behavioral targeting (BT) to scale. Marketers are going to increase demand for horizontal accountability. As an industry, we need to do a better job of controlling creative engagement and frequency capping. As content continues to be as portable as the devices consumers carry, more emphasis needs to be placed on ad-serving and campaign-management technology across the board. If a user has been saturated with specific messaging during their broadband sessions, marketers should have the capability to minimize what is served during their mobile or TV experience. The cable industry is banding together to address targeting and accountability with the recently announced Canoe effort. There is still a lot of work that remains to be done to bring it all together. BusinessEdge has been fortunate to be in the middle of this digital sandbox as the experienced referees developing requirements to ensure the user and advertiser experience continues to come together as a true one-to-one conversation.

AP: What kinds of limitations do you see in behavioral targeting as we move forward, and why?

GS: Current limitations in BT continue to be pressure on demand and scalability. Limitations will continue to be focused on privacy concerns and educating consumers on the safety of anonymous targeting and the value proposition of delivering a customized user experience. Kudos to AOL for its upcoming campaign utilizing a penguin to teach users about ad targeting. Net neutrality will also continue to separate publishers and ISPs, but unless we reward ISPs for the infrastructure improvements necessary to maintain the Web’s speeds, file sizes, and overall increased usage, the complete experience will not support the quality users demand. We’ve also gotten very good at collecting and segmenting large amounts of data. As long as publishers and marketers utilize the data efficiently, the consumer experience will continue to thrive.

AP: How is your company responding to them?

GS: BusinessEdge Solutions is tackling the problems that the industry hasn’t even become aware of yet. We’re identifying the challenges and are working very closely with our clients, industry trade groups, and partners to gather requirements and develop use cases to ensure a fail-safe anonymous data collection process. We are also continuing to hire and search for talent that has worked in nascent practices, such as mobile targeting, ad serving, and operational process and technology flows.

We’ve also developed a cross-channel content and ad management platform, Proof of Concept. This has been a challenge that we’ve been working on with our clients for the past two years to solve. Our solution is the blueprint, road map, and architecture for efficient, targeted, and accountable horizontal ad serving and content management. A user’s data can be mapped and stored in a central repository accessible by other screens for horizontal, smart ad decisions. For example, if a user has visited a specific SUV section on an automotive Web site at 9 a.m., the same manufacturer now has the option to serve an SUV ad when the user is watching the 6 p.m. news. The user will benefit from a more relevant content experience. We can capture interests from the user’s favorite TV shows and offer relevant Web content on their mobile browser. Other technical advancements are still maturing like LBS (location-based services) on mobile, and the possibilities are endless for marketers to tailor an offer regionally targeted offers. It’s taking “minimizing waste” to a new level. Publishers that participate will be generating incrementally higher eCPMs [define] by connecting marketers to valued consumers.

Next time, Gary will discuss why ISPs and marketers alike must become smarter about achieving relevance.

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