Targeting Domains, Cutting Through the Clutter

Flash back to a few years ago. DoubleClicker Chris Theodoros was sitting at his desk, thinking of a cool way to send a targeted message to the folks at Katz. Chris’s girlfriend (now wife), Laura, had announced her departure from Katz after spending several years there. Chris was trying to think of a way to thank Katz for all the wonderful times Laura had experienced there. Then it hit him.

Chris constructed a 468 x 60 banner thanking Katz. He then put the banner into the DART system and ran it across the DoubleClick Network, targeting the Katz domain. Anytime someone surfing from the Katz domain came across a DoubleClick Network site, he or she saw the banner. Over the course of the next few days, Chris heard about the effect his banner had on the Katz staff — several Katz employees were so impressed by it that they had placed phone calls to Laura, asking how it had been executed.

As time goes by, I find myself relating this anecdote to online marketers and advertisers very frequently. It’s a great example of granular targeting, low-cost advertising, and creative thinking. It’s also, unfortunately, an example of a terrific targeting method that hasn’t really caught on.

Domain targeting has a nearly unlimited number of applications in online advertising. Not only does it allow for targeting of very specific audiences, but it also allows a marketer to address those audiences with unique messages. This targeting method offers some very cool possibilities:

  • Are you a business-to-business (B2B) marketer trying to target a dozen or so companies with advertising? Email ads aren’t the only way to target your prospective audience. Look up the domains of the companies you’re trying to reach, and try a network buy targeted to those domains. Use a few networks, and they won’t be able to avoid seeing your ads. You can even direct specific pieces of creative at your target companies: “Hey, iVillage — We’ve got some great content for your site. Call Bob at Screaming Media at 555-1212.”

  • Maybe you’re an Internet service provider (ISP) that wants to steal users away from AOL. Target the various AOL proxies and run a campaign: “Ready to graduate to a new ISP? Click here.”
  • Use domain targeting for mischief. Poke fun at competitors. Target Microsoft with a banner that says, “Linux rules. Get a real OS. From your friends at Red Hat.” 😉
  • Have you noticed that users from particular domains or ISPs are responding better to your message than the general Web population? Target them specifically. “Hey, EarthLink users, get the latest shareware and freeware from Download.com.”
  • Do you have broadband content and want to capture users with extra-fat pipes? Try going after rr.com (Road Runner), home.com (@Home), rcn.com (RCN), and any other home broadband domains you can find. You’ll nail your target with very little waste.

Many networks and large sites are capable of executing campaigns using this targeting method. However, there’s one little hitch: Most ad servers aren’t capable of predicting the number of ads they can serve to a specific domain. If you utilize domain targeting, it’s best to approach it by allocating capped budgets to the sites on your buy and then watching your reports very carefully. Once you get a couple weeks’ worth of data back, you can revise your allocations accordingly by projecting the number of ads you will serve in the future.

Despite this, domain targeting is a terrific way to target ads with little waste and to address your targets specifically, with a message that cuts through clutter. You can bet that if I were ever surfing the Web one day and came across a banner that was emblazoned with “Hey, Mezzina Brown employee!” I’d definitely click on it to see who had made the effort to target my company specifically. In an age when few ads truly jump off the page at a prospect, domain targeting is a great way to get a message across.

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