The Next Gator Iteration

If you’ve spent time on online ad industry sites lately, you’ve noticed a new advertiser. Claria is working to get the attention of media buyers. That, my friends, is the new corporate moniker for the company formerly known as the Gator Corporation.

Why the switch? During a recent agency meeting with David Oliveria, senior director of sales, we discussed how the company reorganized to better reflect its overall product and service offerings. Oliveria described how the company structure reflects three main areas:

  • The GAIN Network encompasses over 38 million users who have installed Gator’s adware.

  • GAIN Publishing manages a growing portfolio of user software and third-party applications.
  • A new Feedback Research division delivers both Web analytics and online marketing research services to the company.

It’s also a well-timed corporate rebranding to overcome the stigma associated with many spyware applications. If you missed it, check out the report issued last week from the Washington, DC-based Center for Democracy and Technology. Ghosts in Our Machines: Background and Policy Proposals on the “Spyware” Problem takes aim at spyware, which includes adware programs; screen scrape and keystroke monitoring utilities; and other devious programs unwittingly downloaded by unsuspecting users.

Putting the online ad industry grapevines and rumor mills aside, we went into the meeting with an open mind. We wanted to give the all-new Claria a fair shake. What I came away with is a sense of a very solid product offering that, for whatever reason, has been misinterpreted in parts of the marketplace.

What led to this revelation? I’m the first to say I’m no huge fan of online tools that plaster a competitive pop-up ad on top of one of my client’s Web sites. It borders on plain underhandedness. My perception was Gator used triggers to specifically target a marketer’s competitive ad to highjack a company’s customers. Not what I have in mind when I think about good business Netiquette.

What has me rethinking the proposition is Claria’s approach based on behavioral marketing principles — a topic I love. Its targeting methodology revolves around aggregating the actions of its users across a product or service category to trigger an ad, not directly tying it to one site visit. It’s a collective number of behaviors that puts someone in a data cluster that identifies her as a potential audience for the ad message.

If we’re honest, how’s that different from how other publishers are starting to use behavioral targeting to better manage ad inventory? True, Claria benefits by measuring collective activity across several sites, not a single or multiple visits within one site. But how different is that from a huge network such as Yahoo using its behavioral tools to measure activity across all its channels and properties? After all, its scale is pretty representative of the whole Web.

From a permission-based perspective, what sets Claria apart from its brethren is the breadth and depth of consumer permission that must be secured before an ad is displayed. After our meeting, I went through the user experience of installing the application. I received seven separate messages I had to acknowledge before the adware app was installed. I had the option to pay for the software instead of agreeing to view ads. Its software partners show consumers both the EULA and privacy policy screens prior to installation. Users must accept both before the software is installed.

I generally don’t install any extra apps to avoid conflicts and problems down the road. But if you don’t mind extra software management in exchange for free some stuff, then you’re set.

Am I utterly converted and ready to recommend a Claria program to my clients? Perhaps. Let’s just say I’m not totally opposed to considering the opportunity. And if in a rebranding effort you convince someone to move your product or service from nonconsideration to potential consideration, you’ve won half the battle.

That’s my perspective. Let me hear yours.

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