Targeting Takes Another Step Forward

Most people in this business would agree technologies like behavioral targeting and contextual advertising have revolutionized online marketing. Looking back, I can hardly believe we got anywhere targeting based on site-provided audience profiles and content channels alone.

Although such primitive tactics served their purpose at the time, they left buyers and planners with little control over fundamental campaign metrics, such as ROI (define). No wonder we constantly struggled to consolidate what we promised to clients and what was actually delivered.

As far as we’ve come, new targeting, segmentation, and ad-serving technologies continue to improve. The companies with the newest offerings don’t just utilize the most effective aspects of behavioral and contextual marketing but take targeting even further.

Take a look at [x+1], which until April of this year was better known as Poindexter Systems. The company observed the shift toward leveraging technology in media planning and buying but felt automated technology was still underutilized.

“Behavioral is one component we need to look at — that lets you know someone appears to be in-market for a product or service,” says Toby Gabriner, CEO of [x+1]. “But you don’t know anything further about that individual, like their age, gender, or geography. We do need to look at behavioral and contextual variables. But something like time of day or access speed might be even more predictive to some advertisers.”

With this in mind, the company offers two solutions to improve conversion rates, which can be used independently or in tandem: a site optimization product called Site+1 and a media optimization product called Media+1.

The first part of the equation, site optimization, involves using the company’s seven-year-old Progressive Optimization Engine to create real-time profiles of anonymous prospects when they arrive at a site. The engine, Gabriner says, uses IP and cookie data to give sites “an amazing view” into their clients and customers and what makes them tick. That view then informs the way sites deliver product messaging and provides the opportunity to cross- and upsell after converting a prospect into a customer. Current users of the technology include AOL, Vonage, and Verizon.

The media portion also utilizes [x+1]’s handy optimization engine. It’s used to allow media buyers to only buy impressions that fit the profile of their target audience. [X+1] has agreements with eight ad networks, which essentially allows it to analyze the value of each impression on behalf of a client prior to making the purchase. If the impression isn’t a suitable match, the optimization engine keeps looking and the network simply sells the impression to someone else.

Say an [x+1] client’s objectives include reaching consumers who are likely to sign up for a trial service and ultimately to convert into subscribers. The advertiser might have a list of 10 different audience segments it wishes to reach, including 24-year-old males with a propensity to spend money online. It relays this information to [x+1]. When an impression is served by one of the ad networks, [x+1] reviews it in real time and analyzes the profile of the consumer who could receive it. If the impression is set to appear on a site targeting women, [x+1] will reject it. If it’s going to a sports site with a high concentration of the advertiser’s target audience, the impression is served.

The advertiser is informed which network ran its ad, but not the site on which it appeared. Pricing, Gabriner says, is flexible. It can be performance-based, be a CPM (define) model, or represent a percentage of the overall media spend.

“Not only can we identify and target high value prospects, but we allow marketers to only buy the impressions that they want,” says Gabriner. Users of its media solution include online dating site

Although it may be complex, [x+1]’s technology should feel pretty intuitive to most buyers and planners. The concept of increasing the variables by which an advertiser can identify and analyze consumers is a no-brainer… that takes some real brains to execute.

If you’ve experienced the effectiveness of behavioral and contextual marketing firsthand, you know there’s one real drawback: setting client expectations for conversions and ROI impossibly high. Well, here’s a way to deliver beyond what’s expected — the new-fashioned way.

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