Score One Point for the Ad Servers

A couple weeks back, I noticed 24/7 Real Media unveiled a new version of Open AdStream for publishers. The news caught my attention because it integrated behavioral targeting into the new release.

By converging behavioral targeting, ad management, and Web analytics into a single system, Open AdStream 6 is positioned to give online publishers more control, allowing them to focus more attention on their customers and campaigns.

Since Open AdStream is one of the largest online ad servers in terms of impression volume, this is another big step toward broad availability of behavioral targeting for online advertisers.

Score one point for the ad servers.

There Are Advantages

With behavioral targeting bundled with the ad management interface, online publishers can theoretically get a more efficient system with fewer seams. For example, an integrated system could save time by consolidating tags — ad serving, site analytics, and targeting — making campaign implementation and management simpler.

Another benefit is a single source of data. This reduces the potential for data discrepancies between systems and makes reconciliation easier. A single system should provide more control for publishers over the whole process, from trafficking to optimization to results reporting, allowing publishers to focus on customer relationships and other high-value aspects of their businesses.

But There’s Some Hype

It’s great to see the 24/7 Real Media innovating and responding to changing market conditions by adding new capabilities to Open AdStream. Differentiating, empowering, and creating efficiencies for their publisher customers is a good thing. Yet, there’s a subtext to be wary of.

Baking behavioral targeting into an ad management system doesn’t mean yesterday’s proprietary, standalone solutions are on the way out. Some of these specialist companies have hugely valuable technologies and intellectual property that won’t become worthless just because they have more competition. There are still plenty of great opportunities for such providers to partner, license, and sell access to their own networks.

Is Behavioral Targeting Technology Commoditizing?

The other major ad-serving providers also seem to be positioning to connect behavioral ad targeting and optimization. DoubleClick’s acquisition of Falk and release of DART Adapt points in that direction.

Most of the big advertising networks offer some flavor of behavioral targeting. And the search engines keep making sounds about better ad-targeting options beyond contextual relevance, such as past behavior like search histories. So, is the space commoditizing?

Not yet.

It’s growing fast, as online advertising industry watchers such as Forrester Research and eMarketer have picked up on, but it’s still a differentiator. The discounting and price wars that indicate true commoditization haven’t yet entered the picture.

One Point for the Ad Servers

Behavioral targeting is becoming more available, that’s for sure. If the providers of the major ad management systems for publishers view it as a competitive distinction, it means greater access for advertisers.

There are certainly some potential efficiencies for online publishers in this approach, but it doesn’t represent the end of the line for the specialist providers. More competition in the market for their business is a good thing for the publishers and eventually their customers — the advertisers.

Score one point for the ad servers.

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