Psychographically Targeted Web Advertising

By and large, online advertising has thus far confounded big-brand advertisers to date. With Internet usage only growing, large brands want to exploit the Internet on a similar mass scale that they do offline, but budget allocations haven’t yet followed suit. According to Nielsen Online, as of October 2007 the Web only represented 6.7 percent of all ad media spending. And if you were to compare Ad Age’s top 20 advertisers to its top 20 online advertisers, they’d be very different.

Why is this?

If you ask the folks at Mindset Media, former brand advertising agency execs themselves, they’d tell you it has to do with the Web being a very good direct response medium, better at micro targeting than at mass targeting. Brand advertisers want as much reach as possible, but not at the expense of their ad dollars. They conduct vast amounts of research to understand what makes their likely buyers tick and how best to reach them, oftentimes translating research results into psychographic profiles. These psychographic profiles have proven to be powerful predictive models for buyer behavior, so the company set out to find a way to harness the Web and marry it to psychographic profiling.

The result? Mindset Media has invented a proprietary psychographic planning and buying standard based on 20 personality traits, like spontaneity, self-esteem, modesty, and pugnaciousness:

media with attitude chart
Click to enlarge

Each personality cell is divided into five levels of degrees, and every person has some degree of all 20 traits, the equivalent of their mindset. Mindset Media estimates that each mindset has approximately 2 million unique U.S. users.

If an advertiser doesn’t already know the mindset she desires to reach, she can test select groups for responsive mindset types with a survey, the MindsetProfile. Or, in conjunction with Nielsen//NetRatings, Mindset Media can conduct these tests for the advertiser, turning around results in about three weeks.

The company has also built an ad network. Once a desired mindset has been established, the advertiser can make a simple ad buy through its network, which then delivers ads to the appropriate mindset users, who are identified via flagged cookies. Mindset Media’s network comprises both “safe,” brand-friendly publishers and high-quality ad inventory the company acquires on behalf of its advertisers. As a result, the network has limited transparency.

According to Mindset Media COO Sarah Welch, mindset targeting puts less onus on the ad creative to be the driving force of action. Whereas targeting a particular mindset might influence the ad message and creative, mindset-targeted ads already reach users with a proclivity to respond. This kind of targeting, the company believes, helps the brand advertiser (or the agency) stack the ad buys with impressions more likely to reach users with an affinity for the brand, thereby reducing waste, increasing appropriate reach, and removing the guesswork that comes with demographical targeting.

Is mindset targeting like behavioral targeting? They’re similar but not exactly the same, says Welch. “Behavioral targeting waits for someone to ‘trip a trigger’ that tells the ad server they’re likely to act, whereas mindset targeting doesn’t have to wait for that trigger to happen,” she explains. “Mindset targeting is better at the top of the funnel, to build awareness and seed visibility; behavioral targeting works better at the bottom of the funnel, when you want to reach someone ready to buy.”

I asked Welch about privacy concerns. Personality profiling, in my mind, certainly brings up another whole level of concern. Welch acknowledged this issue’s sensitivity and that “safeguarding consumer privacy is crucial.” Mindset Media doesn’t use any personally identifiable information from online users to deliver its ads, it offers an opt-out program for users who don’t wish to participate in its ad network, and, as members of both the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Network Advertising Initiative, it adheres to its online privacy policies.

Mindset Media campaigns won’t officially launch until May 2008, but advertisers do have immediate options. For an additional cost, 24/7 Media sells Mindshare Media mindset targeting through its network already. Advertisers can become charter members, joining a program that involves Dynamic Logic tracking and requires an upfront commitment. If nothing else, advertisers can get their MindsetProfile performed now so they’re ready to begin advertising by May.

Wonder if this will truly bring more ad dollars to the Web?

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