Defining Behavioral Sequencing

Last week, Eyeblaster announced several new features in the latest release of its rich media platform. One feature is behavioral sequencing.

Behavioral sequencing enables rich media advertisers to display different messages based on previous actions taken or ads seen by a viewer. Viewer interactions drive the messages they see as well as determine the messages displayed in subsequent exposures. Ad messages can be made more specific for users who have demonstrated a particular interest or less intrusive if no interaction takes place.

Eyeblaster built a demo ad for MSN Music to demonstrate behavioral sequencing. The initial copy reads “Meet more music. Meet more favorites. Meet today’s top downloads.” Viewers are invited to roll over their choice from three categories: Top Rock, Top Country, and Top Hip-Hop.

Upon roll over, the ad expands to show the top five downloads from the selected category. If the viewer chose Top Hip-Hop, for example, he could then listen to the top five downloads from within the ad, complete with play, pause, and mute functions.

The next ad the viewer sees from that particular MSN Music campaign will carry only the Hip Hop messaging: “Meet more hip hop. Download for free. Ying Yang Twins. Missy Eliot. Bow Wow.”

Any trackable event can inform the progression. New ads are then shown according to preset rules. User histories are stored anonymously on a third-party cookie, so behavioral sequencing will work across sites.

Any media planner will tell you sequential exposure is nothing new. However, behavioral sequencing is different from placement on sequential pages in magazines or the Burma-Shave billboards along the highway. The messages are based on user behavior and interest.

PointRoll released something like this earlier in July. These are really the first two products on the market that can do this to my knowledge.

What are behavioral sequencing’s benefits? First, this feature allows advertisers to personalize to some degree and improve communications. Advertisers entice potential customers with targeted promotions for products or services they’ve shown interest in via earlier exposures.

For fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) advertisers, it can be used to limit entries into sweepstakes and requests for samples.

The reporting capabilities of the new feature show details of viewers’ interactions during each message of the campaign, giving a good deal more insight into how the advertising is working.

What are the drawbacks? For advertisers who produce limited amounts of creative, this may require incremental production time and costs. But when kept simple, it’s more a matter of assembling existing assets (from landing pages, etc.) than creating and building lots of different ads.

With the MSN Music example, only four ads are needed. The first offering is a choice of three music categories, then one more for each category. All were created with a template to minimize production requirements.

Behavioral sequencing shows how the rich media world is keeping pace with marketplace demand for behavioral marketing solutions. When used intelligently, it can greatly improve ad relevance for its viewers, by making messages either more specific for those who have demonstrated an interest or less intrusive if no interaction takes place.

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