Consumer Direct: Ultra-Targeted Ad Delivery

Consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies have massive spending power. To date, they’ve mostly kept that power away from online advertising. Though countless studies try to lure them with tales of traffic and sales accrued, these efforts always seem to fall short.

Not long ago, ACNielsen and Yahoo launched a new online advertising program. With a foundation in behavior-based marketing, the joint effort promises to bring the CPG companies around.

Consumer Direct was designed with CPG companies in mind. Already, it’s attracted attention from such players as Dial, Kraft, Nestlé, and Unilever.

The process behind Consumer Direct is somewhat complex. ACNielsen compiles offline demographic and purchasing habit data from Homescan participants (its consumer panel used to gather info on CPG consumption) who are also active Yahoo users. Advertiser messages are matched with online users who demonstrate interests and habits similar to their offline counterparts. Finally, ACNielsen polls and questions the panelists to predict the success of each online campaign and gauge whether the ad messages resulted in offline purchases.

Ultra-targeted ad delivery with access to millions of online users? That’s a marketing partnership made in Internet advertising heaven.

The program has been offered since summer 2003. So far, results have been impressive. Overall, short-term sales from Consumer Direct CPG campaigns have topped $3 million. The average lift in sales following exposure was as high as 20 percent, and return on advertising spend (ROAS) ran from about 100 to 300 percent.

When pitching the service, ACNielsen and Yahoo focus on its branding value. They hope to attract the many CPG companies that fork over millions to branding campaigns. Consumer Direct also has other uses. The program is already employed to increase e-commerce sales, distribute coupons, and boost sign-ups for contests and sweepstake promotions.

Additional CPG advertisers may be attracted by a diminished possibility that consumers might not be interested in the products advertised. In general, online targeting is a guessing game; buyers base their buys on site research and audience profiles, but there’s no guarantee the ads will reach the targeted percentage of users. Consumer Direct offers a more structured, scientific approach to planning and buying: It matches creative with the right target audience.

ACNielsen and Yahoo aren’t the only companies to realize the growing interest in this sort of system. Behavioral-targeting technology firm Tacoda Systems is so well established, a number of existing publisher clients will try its upcoming pay-for-performance network; and Revenue Science has just convinced the Financial Times and Reuters to try its newest technology. Situational Advertising Technology firm Adrelief continues to offer content-targeting advertising after another year of successes; and Claria and aQuantive both have more expansive behavioral marketing offerings in the works: BehaviorLink and DRIVEpm, respectively.

Most of these programs must be shopped around to the appropriate publishers before advertisers can actually employ them. To match Yahoo’s broad network reach, they would have to work with a number of different sites. Consumer Direct has the power and reach of the Yahoo brand already built in.

Consumer Direct system can help drive CPG sales and provide extensive offline and online data and campaign results. It’s expected the remainder of the major CPG companies will soon realize this program has what others lacked. It promises to be one of the most effective behavioral marketing programs yet.

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