Behavioral Advertising: Forget Everything You’ve Learned?

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As more advertisers embrace new technology in 2008, we can expect to see Behavioral Targeting continue to make headlines. Simple, standard banners continued to decline in click through rates over the past years. Smart advertisers react with a stronger emotional experience, a more relevant message, or ideally – both.

This will give smart advertisers an advantage in expanding user attention – by (a) creating richer experiences (b) delivering a better mix of digital channels, and (c) achieving higher relevance with more accurate targeting.

2007 saw increased attention on behavioral targeting, in its media-buying incarnation. Publishers emphasized targeted offering, and behavioral networks further enhanced reach. Consumer responded positively: a Jupiter Research study finds that behavioral advertising outperformed contextual by as much as 22%.

Such propositions are not without limitations. Behavioral Media buying is often confined to a single publisher – in which case, how do you follow the user as they roam beyond the browser portal? 

Also, often the conception and design of the campaign are totally separate to media buying – seriously limiting the ability to mesh behavioral aspects into the campaign concept. Behavioral targeting circa-2007 merely took a given creative and attempted to place it where relevant. This is a great advancement, but digital advertising can surely do much better than that.

Furthermore, consumers have expressed concerns over privacy aspects. , stirring the FTC to come forward with suggested self-regulation for behavior tracking. No-one likes the eavesdropper. Behavioral targeting can potentially infuriate users and shake their trust in publisher and brand alike. Targeting indeed does not require formal permission, but it could benefit from does require an obvious, unmistakable one.

Furthermore, often the conception and design of the campaign are totally separate to media buying – seriously limiting the ability to mesh behavioral aspects into the campaign concept. Behavioral targeting circa-2007 merely took a given creative and attempted to place it where relevant. This is a great advancement, but digital advertising can surely do much better than that.

Creative Behavioral Targeting

Recent innovations in dynamic creative alongside user behavior tracking gave birth to a new approach to behavioral targeting – one that covers also the campaign creative. Rather than rely on private data, these campaigns respond to actual user response to product messaging. This technique simply optimizes, in real-time, the type and content of the message being delivered. Some smart advertisers already took advantage of such innovations in 2007, and examples included:

~Consumer electronics enthusiasts were greeted with their name and photo on a recurring series of sweepstake campaigns

~Smokers were greeted with a personal reminder of how many cigarettes they lit and inhaled since a previous interaction with the ad

~Movie buffs were targeted with their favorite genre of DVD based on their prior interaction with the campaign.

Getting a highly targeted message, consumers responded with a positive lift in performance across relevant metrics.

Consumers were targeted based on information they directly provided to the brand. No surprises – rather appreciation as the messaging is pinpointed, accurate, and narrow casted. If I told the anti-tobacco agency’s banner how much I smoke, the permission to use this data has in fact been quite obvious. Creative behavioral targeting also gives full freedom in media buying – users can be tracked targeted on any site, IM application or even in-game experience. This gives added flexibility and increases ROI.

The consumers have spoken, and we’ve seen that the old way of conducting digital advertising won’t cut it. Users are ignoring standard ads and can be hesitant to interact. But Behavioral Optimization is great for ROI, because it identifies the right consumers and hones the message, in real-time, accordingly.

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