Targeting, Australian-Style

My last column kicked off a new series on online targeting. I explored the interesting options available from Poindexter Systems. One of their services is a concept called a media passback. It allows you to dynamically return impressions to a publisher for resale during the ad serving process if the user doesn’t match a defined customer profile.

This week, I’ll revisit a related concept from DoubleClick called Boomerang. I say “revisit” as the product has been around for several years and is enjoying a resurgence in usage. A product like this should be a staple in your online targeting arsenal if you’re serious about media optimization.

If you never heard of Boomerang, you might conjure up a vision of Paul Hogan flinging a curved stick at an unsuspecting customer to whack product info into their head. I’m glad to say the Boomerang is a subtler and more effective form of motivation.

How Boomerang Returns Customers

The tool is described as an application for advertising segmentation and remarketing. When a user views a page on your client’s site that’s set up with a Boomerang tag, that user’s cookie ID is recorded in a Boomerang list. Once a user is exposed to a future ad on a publisher’s site set up in DART for Advertisers (DFA), you can dynamically specify a select ad execution as you’ve also flagged them on the Boomerang list. In plain English: a user sees your ad, arrives on your client’s site and does (or doesn’t do) something. Next time the user’s online and visits a site on your buy, you can hit them with a more relevant ad, based on what they did (or didn’t do).

How can you apply this to your marketing efforts?

  1. Re-enforce the sell. Dell drives someone to a page promoting its new MP3 player. The next time that user is served an ad, display creative that adds product details or comparative features. That deepens the sales message.

  2. Relationship sell. Say you’ve motivated a customer to go to AA.com and join the AAdvantage program. They bought their first ticket online. The next ad impression can promote online check-in and flight status notification, or an upcoming fare sale.

  3. Reactivate dormant customers. Want to tweak the segment of your customer list that’s been inactive for a while? Hit them with a special offer for free shipping, bonus points, or a two-for-one offer to get those customers re-engaged with your brand.

I’m sure you can think of lots of other acquisition and retention approaches.

Shotgun vs. Rifle

Some may ask, why go to all the trouble to set up such a system if you can just buy mass impression tonnage at super-cheap CPMs? Can’t I just hit folks while they surf and accomplish the same goals? You can, if part of your strategic goal is leveraging volume. But two points tell me targeted always wins over the blast approach.

  1. It costs much less to re- or up-sell an existing customer. So why not mine your customer base while they’re online at other sites? If I already bought a Dell MP3 player, I likely don’t need a second. But I may be interested in a PDA.

  2. Effective reach always delivers more qualified prospects. If we accept the basic media principle that there is an average frequency of message exposure that motivates a customer to buy, why not ensure creative messaging is optimized as well? We’ll accept that we need three or four print executions to rotate within a magazine flight to effectively tell the story. Why not leverage online’s delivery capabilities to ensure your customer is exposed to each and every part of the story?

The Big Caveat (or, There’s Always a Catch)

All this sounds really sexy and sophisticated. But there’s one thing to keep in mind: scope.

Because this approach applies database marketing principles, you must have a media plan with sufficient size and weight to effectively “re-hit” your customer base across a set timeframe. Adding to this wrinkle is the dynamic that most sites have very little audience overlap with others in your plan. If you elect to apply this approach, you need a huge base to work with — at least 100 million impressions in your plan — to effectively leverage the re-marketing component.

Next Column

Following recent announcements from the Wall Street Journal and NYTimes.com, behavioral targeting is all the rage. I’ll tell you who’s been doing it for years and leveraged the approach to boost ad effectiveness and advertiser satisfaction. Hint: anyone care to yodel?

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