Rules to Live By When Implementing Behavioral Targeting Tactics

There’s no question that the identification of behaviors and insights are leading the cause when it comes to consumer engagement (with a greater degree of relevancy based on their preferences and interests). With consumers spending more time than ever online, it is evident advertisers have a better sense of their passion points, intended purchases, and even grievances against brands, specifically down to the cookie level.

This level of data available is subsequently enabling brands to target much more granularly. According to eMarketer, 97 percent of advertisers and agencies said they would be using some form of audience targeting in 2011, and nearly half (47 percent) said it would account for the majority of their online advertising spending (PubMatic and DIGIDAY, “Publisher Trends: Brand + Audience,” March 2011). When looking at specific type of audience targeting, behavioral is used by 83 percent of U.S. advertisers (a tie for first to demographic).

While behavioral targeting may be considered “old tricks” to some, below are a few things to consider before launching, expanding, or testing elements of behavioral targeting:

  1. Test and test some more. While there are many options to purchase some form of behavioral targeting (and the IAB has worked to standardize categories), the performance of behavioral targeting from one publisher, network, or exchange to another can vary dramatically. Additionally, performance for one brand is not indicative of overall performance capabilities for other brands. As with any online advertising effort, it is always important to test, and continue testing in an effort to grow and optimize.
  2. Garner audience insights. There are many technology partners offering consumer insights in association with the media being purchased; leverage this! It is important to start with the consumer in an effort to ensure there is relevancy in the message you send and action you want them to take. You can use your current digital audience profiles to target very specific information from credit score to content they are sharing. Additionally, you can use your media to inform customer insights. This can be helpful if you are at a crossroads with discovering audience segments and funding more intensive research studies. A good rule of thumb for any marketer is to make sure that the customer challenge and need is what is driving your efforts and is what fuels your tactics.
  3. Leverage retargeting separately. While retargeting is a form of consumer behavior, the performance for retargeting is significantly higher in terms of engagement and direct response metrics than standard types of behavioral retargeting. It is similar to comparing paid search brand terms to awareness terms. The volume is not nearly as high for the brand terms (or retargeting since it is dependent upon cookie activity); however, it performs superiorly because the consumer has shown a predisposed interest in your specific brand as opposed to the brand category. It cannot be compared apples to apples. Maybe apples to bananas (as in the same food group), but definitely not the same food. While it cannot be compared, it should definitely be used. Use the insights consumers offer to deliver a much more relevant message – giving something you know they would perceive as value in identifying with your brand, from a discount to additional inventive.

    And why stop at site retargeting? If you are leveraging consumer behaviors, visit your website, go one step further and retarget based on their interaction with your emails, other online advertising, keyword searches, etc. Since you know what they want from their interaction with your brand, continue the relationship.

  4. Consider privacy regulation implications. With privacy a continual topic of discussion when it comes to behavioral targeting, there are some companies offering self-imposed compliance with industry guidelines giving consumers transparency into and control over how their information is being used through an identified logo in the online advertising banner. The self-regulatory options of placing a logo in a brand advertiser’s online advertising banner are not necessary unless the company values social responsibility with the utmost importance within the organization. First and foremost, most consumers are not aware of what the logo is (or I am not aware of studies to contradict this statement), and when implemented, the stats I have been quoted in terms of interaction rates were miniscule. So the brands that are doing this are doing it to say they are doing it – internally. Eventually, it will become more mainstream; until then, save your money.
  5. Do not abandon context. While behavioral and audience targeting is on the other side of contextual targeting, it does not mean that you should not consider the context in which the ad will appear. It may not be relevant to anything on the page in which a consumer views the ad, so messaging and engagement tactics are key. Make the call to action easy to understand and be sure to focus on the consumer benefit. Today’s form of advertising is about earning consumer attention vs. shouting for it.

I could continue the list, but I’d like to know other tactics you’re taking. Like all online advertising efforts, behavioral retargeting is a balanced mix of planning and preparation prior to campaign launch, as optimizing, refining, and testing as you continue to ensure performance is maximized. The ever-moving target changes as fast as a consumers’ behavior online.

Amy is off today. This column was originally published May 11, 2011.

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