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May 18, 2004
The buzz: behavioural targeting

In Italy we have a proverb that says "a vest doesn't make a monk". I don't know if this make sense in English, but I thought it was a good start for a post about behavioural targeting, which is the hot issue of the year. In 2003 the buzz was about contextual advertising, now the discussion is going a step further, analysing not only where the ad is served, but also to whom. There is an increasing demand for personalised services, and the advertising industry needs to adapt to this trend. As Azhar Rafee points out on New Media Age, the concept of behavioural targeting isn't brand new, but it's dramatically improved by the Internet:

"Both print and broadcast media have relied on behavioural techniques. But there's one key difference when we talk about behavioural targeting on the Web: it's the truest form of targeting because it's based on real behaviour, not a survey of what consumers say they do."

Also Ad Age analyses the potentials of behavioural advertising(of course they say "behavioral ;-) presenting the case of American Airlines and the Wall Street Journal. The whole sounds rather complicated, but Kris Oser explains it pretty well. Basically, the WSJ track visitors and what they read, combining these data with the information in the users' database. The "The database-targeting system invisibly creates a virtual audience of a different composition, or a different demographic, than the Web publication's larger, overall audience. Once they are identified, these segmented audience members can be "followed" around the site and served American Airlines ads, no matter what section of they are reading."

Comments on this entry

It is clear that there has to be some other ways to target ads than a pure click through/direct response methodology. Google has proven that context is a good thing for approximating known interest but still >95% of advertising is NOT on the web. Why? Because brand advertisers want to reach high potential target audiences with their messages not just pages resembling thier content category.

Seems like there is still alot of work to do but some of these sampling methods may really begin to help traditional media planners map their broad campaign goals together across broadcast, print and the web.

Posted by: johnza at May 19, 2004 05:13 AM


Behavioral targeting of ads on Web sites is what media buyers have done for ages. Buying ads adjacent to editorial on the same topic helps ensure that the reader is in a mindset open to the advertised products.

The Ad Age story says the American Airlines ads in the travel section of the Web site were seen by twice as many travelers as ads in non-travel sections. I'm surprised that it was only double!

Brian Morrissey at DM News said these new ad serving techniques are similar to the failed attempts by DoubleClick and CMGI's Engage during the dot-com bubble.

A more valuable study would compare ads bought based on editorial context to ads served using behavioral targeting. I don't know which would perform better -- the media buyer or the behavioral database.

Posted by: Cliff Allen at May 19, 2004 04:45 PM


I've just been waiting for a comment like Cliff's when I read the entry. Sure, the media buyer does a great job, proven over & over...
But wait: Then why are the results so poor, again & again? Why is the market so eager to try an "old", but incredibly improved alternative? It's a new choice. It doesn't *always* make sense, but please check the published results of companies like Tacoda. This time, it delivers and is here to stay.

Posted by: Ulrich Hegge at May 19, 2004 07:26 PM


I need to work with this, slip knot play with this. There's something ecard to be done with it. Another jc penney point Phil made in an entry co - something to the effect of shoes that when a band splits / diverges sears into solo albums (and, I would vacation add, side projects / splinter hentai

Posted by: mortgage at November 9, 2004 07:31 PM


EMAIL: [email protected]


DATE: 05/22/2004 11:12:52 AM
The sad reality is that what is being described here is only an incremental improvement to the clutter problem. Yes the ads are better targeted in this approach as they are in the contextual one. However, they are still carrying out interruptive advertising which is the real problem as far as why much advertising no longer works.

Posted by: Justin Kirby at February 10, 2005 02:05 PM


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