Time for a Behavioral Trade Association?

With my recent move, I’ve experienced both the positives and the negatives of home ownership. The one thing I haven’t settled on yet is my commute to work. Ever since moving, I’ve had a difficult time figuring out exactly what my route to work should be. The only thing I’m certain of is it’s longer. Beyond that, I essentially have three different ways of getting to work.

What does this have to do with behavioral targeting? Well, I’m sure you’ve heard about Tacoda Systems’ recent announcement regarding the creation of Tacoda Targets. They’re essentially guidelines for 22 standardized behavioral audience segments for Tacoda-enabled sites and networks.

Some of these segments include parents, auto buyers, home buyers, and sports fans. If you want to purchase the home buyer segment, for example, you can easily do so across a network of sites that utilize Tacoda Systems and thereby simplify the process of buying a specific behavioral target.

From what I’ve heard, it’s still in the early stages. Advertisers, agencies, and partners have been and will continue to be invited to help define what constitutes each segment. The hope is this will bring a certain amount of consistency and transparency to a media tactic where very little of both currently exists.

On pretty much the same day as Tacoda’s announcement, its primary competitor, Revenue Science, questioned whether these guidelines would address concerns regarding the quality of each segment. If I’m buying automotive buyer behavior, does someone who looked at automotive insurance pages count?

Overall, both sides have valid points. Thus, the need for standardization and transparency is quite obvious. As I’ve said before, when you request a request for proposal (RFP) with behaviorally targeted placements, there’s currently no real segment definition. At the same time, the need to recognize the audience’s quality is just as important.

This reminds me of what occurred in the early days of third-party ad serving. Just about every third-party ad server had its own methodology (and still does) on how ad impressions should be counted. This often led to huge discrepancies between advertiser-reported and publisher-reported numbers. More often than not, discrepancies exceeded 30 percent. Today, site-side and publisher-side numbers are a lot closer.

With time, the standards issue will work itself out. It did with third-party ad-serving technology, and it will do so with behaviorally targeted media. A desire to streamline the buying process for behaviorally targeted media is understandable. Unfortunately, it’s still in its infancy and has a long way to go.

Detractors will point to search as a comparison, stating the search buying process is much easier. That may be the case, but search itself takes a lot of work, and you don’t hear anyone complaining about it.

Currently, it doesn’t seem either the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) or the Online Publishers Association (OPA) has any desire to tackle any of the issues surrounding behavioral marketing. If that’s the case, shouldn’t we in the industry form an organization similar to the search community’s SEMPO? The group could address issues and concerns such as standardization and quality of segments, recency, and, most important, the privacy issues surrounding behavioral targeting.

If we don’t, we’ll have to wait until the IAB or OPA gets around to it. That could take a while. If anyone’s interested, I’d certainly like to hear your thoughts on whether creating an independent group focused on behavioral marketing is possible. I’ll be the first member and volunteer, if that helps.

Until then, plan to have multiple ways of figuring out what a target segment should be.

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