Five Things You Need to Know About Behavioral Targeting


Recently, I had the opportunity to hear three leading providers speak about behavioral targeting and some challenges facing the industry. They helped confirm the fact behavioral is not the Holy Grail of online advertising many initially believed it was. It faces many of the same issues previous products grappled with in online advertising.

Below, some key takeaways from these providers.

It Doesn’t Always Work

This is probably the most important point. Just as with contextually relevant placements, search, rich media, and every other type of ad campaign, campaign results will vary. We found this out with some current campaigns we’re running for our clients. Test behavioral targeting, and set benchmarks against which you can improve and optimize. There’s no guarantee of success, only that you must apply hard work and optimization.

Set Realistic Expectations

Set realistic expectations for behavioral targeting. More often than not, targeting by content still returns the best results. Don’t necessarily expect behavioral targeting to deliver numbers that are above and beyond those based on content sponsorships.

These Things Take Time

Campaigns often require optimization, but give them enough time to reflect accurate results. Too often, clients or agencies are quick to boot sites or placements off a campaign when the initial results are lacking. With behaviorally targeted placements, targeted segments often need to be tweaked. You may have to expand or contract the target segment.

Share the Wealth

Share as much information as possible with publishers up front. Provide them with your campaign objectives, success criteria, and target audience. Giving generic information regarding target and objective won’t cut it if you want the campaign to succeed.

Media Doesn’t Work in a Vacuum

Media strategy and tactics can’t always make a campaign great. Creative plays a vital role in a campaign’s success, and the same can be said of creative people. Whether it’s behavioral targeting based on segmentation only, retargeting look-alike targeting, or a combination of behavioral and demographic targeting, the creative should be tweaked to ensure it’s consistent with the media strategy. Utilizing sequential messaging or creative that’s consistent with targeted segments can go a long way toward fostering success.

The Big Picture

Behavioral targeting isn’t about targeting to just Web sites or just networks. It boils down to the ability to target one on one or opportunities that most closely mirror such an individual approach. Soon, behavioral targeting will be used for email marketing and search, as well as for mobile advertising.

Behavioral targeting isn’t the wholesale revolution people originally thought it was. Instead, it’s more an evolution in the targeting capabilities online can provide. It’s certainly a great weapon to have in the media arsenal, but it should by no means be the only one.

David Rittenhouse is off this week. Today’s column ran earlier on ClickZ.


Related reading