Congressional Spyware Legislation

Yesterday, the IAB presented congress with an appeal to reconsider “spyware” legislation that would potentially hinder e-commerce and information exchange online.  Dave Morgan, who is the founder and chairman of TACODA and chairman of the IAB Public Policy Council was quoted by Online Media Daily as telling congress that “…the proposed “Spyware” legislation could curtail consumer choice and hinder a key economic engine to Web growth.” 


Obviously, as the founder of a behavioral targeting company whose entire foundation technical foundation is based on cookies, Dave is proactively concerned about this potential legislation.  And he should be.  This is a classic example of educating the audience, in this case congress.  In the past I have advocated against wasting too much time educating the masses, however, in this case I believe it to be a worthy fight.  Obviously we can’t have congress confusing the relevant advertising cookie with malicious spyware. 


So Dave and the IAB are charging forward in effort to make that clarification in front of this new congress starting with the hiring of its first lobbyist, Mike Zaneis.  Zaneis, is the former director of congressional and public affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a trade group representing 3 million businesses.  He fought to prevent lawmakers from stepping in to legislate in preference for getting industry groups to come together and fix data protection issues pertaining to credit card fraud.  He has the moxy and experience to help generate the support in congress, or at least educate key influencers in congress about the difference between beneficial technologies and malicious ones.


Something that I wonder about is where are the first party cookie beneficiaries in all of this?  Where are the site analytic companies and the retailers?  If the cookie gets legislated, they will not be protected from the restrictions that come with it.  A cookie will likely be generally classified as some sort of technology that is involuntarily placed on a user’s computer without their knowledge.  That means no more site-side analytics even with first party cookies (WebSideStory and now WebTrends).  That also means retailer cookies, bank cookies, stick portfolio cookies.  Anyone other than ad servers and networks who use their own domain to track, measure and target will likewise be impacted.


So why hasn’t the IAB engaged these groups as well.  A coalition of the retail industry would have a HUGE impact.  The involvement of financial institutions, major magnitude.  Bring in the horsepower of Yahoo!, MSN and AOL and their cookie-based tracking and you have mega-lobbyists at the door of congress.  The IAB doesn’t need to do this alone.  And Gavin O’Malley of MediaPost is right, this is a great time to be educating a new receptive congress.

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Gaining Ground with Behavioral Targeting: Mediaplex tells (Almost) All

So I have received a lot of email and even a couple of phone calls regarding yesterday’s article by Mediaplex’s Sean Quick in iMediaConnection.  How could I let an article on Gaining Ground with Behavioral Targeting go by without so much as a comment, when so much of my blog addresses this topic with such conviction?  Well, yesterday was my birthday so I was out having a much needed break!  But I’ll have at it now!


 


Okay, first of all I have to start off by saying that Sean did a good job of breaking up BT into two distinct categories – passive and active.  He used these descriptions to help us understand the difference between the classic event-based targeting capabilities of a TACODA and the re-targeting capabilities that I have been evangelizing on this blog.  I was so pleased to see Sean use the term customer re-targeting as well, since it was not an industry term when I first started this blog and my Urchin reports show Mediaplex on my blog everyday.  I take Sean’s usage of the term as a compliment J.


 


Recently I posted When to Blog and When to Publish, commenting on what I believe to be the hairline-thick line between what is informational and what is self-promotional publishing online.  I issued a request for feedback as to whether I should be blogging or publishing and if there are topics on my blog suitable for publishing, should you believe I should be publishing.  I was contacted by Brad Berens at iMediaConnection who suggested that I could follow the thought leadership track when writing for iMediaConnaction (with their help) and that my self-promotion and subjective style could be reserved for the blog.  Works for me!  Anyway, stay tuned as you may see some writing show up out there as well…


 


Anyway, back to Sean’s article.  While Sean does specifically highlight ValueClick’s Mediaplex as the provider of re-targeting, he also mentioned DoubleClick and Advertising.com.  So I don’t fault him for direct self-promotion.  But what I do believe Sean fails to do is accurately depicting customer re-targeting as it has come to be defined. 


 


If anything I believe that what Sean has done is introduced a third form of behavioral targeting: (1) passive, (2) active event-based and (3) active segment-based.


 


Passive BT goes back to the event-based targeting that I have already discussed in many postings.  Sean describes it as follows:


 


Passive BT — also sometimes called Targeted Segments and other names — is generally done either through applications that reside on a user’s computer, such as downloaded software, or through tracking tags that reside on publishers’ websites.  In either case, these technologies anonymously record consumer web browsing activity.  The consumer is unaware that such tracking is occurring, as it doesn’t affect their surfing activity in any noticeable way.


 


The tracking information is collected and analyzed, and the cornerstone of this approach is the subsequent attempt to make increasingly educated guesses about a consumer’s interests based on the data in order to deliver timely and relevant marketing communications.


 


Examples of providers of this approach include Tacoda, Revenue Science and Claria.


 


The Active BT that Sean describes is “also called User Retargeting [and] consists of anonymously registering consumers’ proactive, direct interaction with a company’s marketing efforts. For example, display or email advertisements or material on the client’s website and then implementing follow-up marketing programs that address that explicitly expressed interest in an attempt to deepen the relationship and lead to conversion.”


 


So this is still event-based.  A better description is Event-Based Active BT.  The information leveraged for re-targeting is based on other marketing experiences.  Sean does not describe the application of this BT specifically in terms of online advertising, nor does he describe it in terms of preventing the re-prospecting of customers through online advertising.  In fact, what he is doing is explaining that Event-Based Active BT can coordinate disparate forms of online marketing to collectively create a concrete BT model.  Moreover, and what is entirely left out of this article is the PROCESS.


 


One thing that I am so careful to do in all of my postings – and what I believe will be a focus of articles that I would write for IMC – is to illuminate the procedural differences between various kinds of technologies so that people can come to distinguish them.  It is important to understand the impact of a first party design and a third party design for example.  The benefits and differences of these kinds of technologies transcend the advertising experience for both the advertiser and user – in fact for the publisher too. 


 


TruEffect holds the patent-pending rights to first party ad serving.  So if another ad server were to implement a first party design, they would violate that patent and would be putting their clients in a nefarious situation that would result in problems down the road.  Aside from that, other ad servers are not doing it that way anyway right now.  They have their own design using a third party cookie and a synchronization process.  They still have their ‘control the data and you own the client’ model.


 


Listen, Sean is not going to talk to me about it, obviously.  But maybe he will talk to you and then you can come back and talk to all of us on the blog.  OR, maybe Sean would like to come on here and have a discussion with all of us.  It would be great to bring the truth out.


 


If Mediaplex is using a third party cookie to conduct user re-targeting, it is historically synchronizing.  Latency comes into play and there are limitations to the benefits that only a real-time capability can bring to the table.  Only a first party cookie foundation is capable of doing it in real-time. 


 


If Mediaplex is having clients share record information so that Mediaplex can assign cookie values to people when they transact or otherwise experience a marketing event, it is still a third party cookie, foreign to the advertiser and so the limitations include:


 



  1. The ad serving data is mediaplex’s data, accessible only by mediaplex;
  2. The cookie information is not accessible by the advertiser;
  3. The ad serving information is not readily integratable with other technologies such as site-side analytics which may be another third party cookie (omniture) or could be a first party cookie (WebSideStory or Webtrends); and
  4. Mediaplex can not adjust targeting strategies in real-time, targets must be determined in advanced.


As we have covered in many entries on this blog.  First party ad serving, using a first party cookie, allows all of the four aforementioned limitations to be mitigated.  Most of all, targeting can happen in real-time.  An advertiser can change a cookie value, login to the ad server and change the targeting reaction to the cookie; and the change is instantaneous. 


 


With a third-party implementation, the advertiser has have to share the altered customer information with the ad server (Mediaplex, DoubleClick) and then the ad server has to start writing new cookies, which have to propagate, and then the ad targeting can begin.  Can you say latency?


 


Two other limitation issues: (1) SOX and (2) third party cookie deletion.


 


When a third party is handling your data, and you have SOX compliance issues, you have a potential problem.  Using a third-party cookie and a third party ad server, deploying event-based Active BT, means your data about your customers is being shared with a third party who is subsequently developing additional information about your customers and gate-keeping your access to that data.  You need to make sure that you have controls written about the handling of that data because it is out of your control.  This is not an issue with first party ad serving because all of your ad serving data flows directly through to the advertiser and is not withheld by the ad server.


 


Secondly, third party cookies get deleted over 40% of the time – Jupiter Research.  So only 60% of the Event-Based Active BT will be effective whereas over 90% of first party cookies are persistent.  Do the math and you will realize that leveraging a first party cookie will bring a much higher yield in re-targeting activities.


 


So Sean’s article stimulates the interest and probably results in some genuine leads to Mediaplex, but I wonder how far down the path you will get with Mediaplex before you come to realize that you have not come to engage with customer re-targeting but more event-based BT?


 


The third form of BT that I characterized earlier is Active Customer Re-targeting.  The fundamental distinguishing difference is that the advertiser is creating customer segments and is cookieing their customers directly, as opposed to the ad server cooking the customer.  Advertisers may cookie their customers through eCRM, eCommerce cycles, email processes, site-side analytic platforms (i.e., WebSideStory), landing pages (i.e., CoreMetrics) all using their own first party cookie.  They can create customer segment profiles that associate a user with a customer type, just like they do offline with direct mail, cataloging and telemarketing and then deploy customer re-targeting with their online advertising.


 


So Sean, it would be very interesting to have a follow-up article with which we hear how Mediaplex, and if you’re so inclined to research your other examples – Advertising.com and DoubleClick – conduct the Event-Based Active User Re-targeting.  But that might not be on your agenda.  Hey Brad, maybe I’ll write that article for you!


 


Reactionary with Insight.

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This I believe

So for several months now I have been closely watching the industry, reading articles, PR releases, product releases, financial releases and generally paying attention.  I have been taking bits and pieces of what I care about and have been making comments and providing what I believe has been an insightful perspective on how technology can be better leveraged to improve how we advertise online.


 


I have looked at the ad servers, the networks, the lead generation tools.  I have examined the search engines, the publisher tools and the creative formats and provided you with feedback on what other reliable people have had to say.


 


And I have discussed ad agencies, their workflow, the media buying process and the tools that people use to do their jobs, however inefficiently I may believe that to be.


 


Here is my position.


 


The agencies have engaged the interactive medium completely.  Estimates for 2007 are that between 12 ½ and 20% of advertising budgets will go towards new media.  This is no longer the edgy side-project.  Engagement with technology is here.  But it is about refinement. 


 


Search is essential but everyone is coming to recognize that there is something wrong with the model.  It is extremely time-intensive and expensive to manage.  Furthermore the ROI metrics seem to slip the longer you run campaigns.  As I have said in the past, a tipping point is coming. 


 


Networks have been doing their thing the same way with some minor tweaks for a while now and people are demanding more disclosure.  Tolerance for media showing up on inappropriate sites is very low, accountability is high and additional capabilities like behavioral targeting has become an expectation.


 


That brings me to behavioral targeting – a very common topic on this blog.  I have ripped this topic up and down.  My intent has been to redefine this concept as event-based targeting and to justify that there is little about behaviors actually associated with it at all.  Just because someone took a navigation path, or saw a page means little about their behavior, the predictability of their behavior or their preferences.  All we know is something that happened.  Historical targeting is a better description but I have used event-based targeting over the last couple of months.


 


I have never tried to minimize the value of BT, only put it into it rightful place as a solid prospecting and direct response advertising mechanism.  BT does not represent the best means to capturing known individuals, in fact, it does not have the capacity to associate with knowledge about people at all.  Only with events.  But I believe that BT should be part of a comprehensive campaign.


 


People have approached me both on and off this blog about my position towards BT and some of the networks, but I think its because they have been defensive and protective of their positions as representatives of these companies.  Others have engaged me – usually advertisers, agency representatives or others who see that the evolution of practice is inevitable and being on the adaptive edge of the curve is better than the laggards edge.


 


I have also spent a lot of time plugging a concept called first party ad serving.  Forgive me for the plugs.  Obviously as a member of TruEffect I have a lot of passion for what we do here.  But I also spend a lot of time looking for other technologies that can rival or at least coexist, companion or compliment what we are doing here.


 


The patent-pending DirectServe™ Technology that TruEffect has brought to the market represents the next generation of ad serving.  It leverages the knowledge that an advertiser holds about its customers, registrants or users to re-target through ad campaigns.  This is not a replacement for other technologies out there – I have said that before as well – but a great new way of doing it.  An addition to a comprehensive advertising strategy.


 


First party ad serving is about customer re-targeting.  BT is about event-based targeting, best applied when trying to capture unknown individuals.  One is for bringing in new business; one is about farming and growing existing business.  There is no point is re-prospecting existing customers while advertising online.  DirectServe™ takes care of that.  BT leverages previous events so that you can increase the likelihood of putting the right message in front of the right person at the right time based on historical events.  DirectServe™ puts the right message in front of the right person based on known customer segmentation models, knowledge already held about customers.  This a potential marriage.


 


Now BT is largely touted by networks, so there is a limitation as to how you can use it.  I talk about TACODA a lot – which I think Dave Morgan has not be thrilled about – but its because they have been the leader in the space.  I have also talked about Advertising.com and Blue Streak and Tribal and others as well.  But ad servers offer BT too.  DoubleClick’s Boomerang does it.  TruEffect does it.  And that extends beyond networks.


 


I also talk about integration.  Agencies are not on this trail so much as advertisers.  Well, some agencies are but they are the minority.  I have strong opinions about this because I feel that they pieces of the puzzle are all here now for us to put together a great picture of our online marketing so that we can make better informed decisions about our web site compositions, product placements, online advertising and budget allocations.  But nobody has fully engaged yet.  There are leaders that are putting the pieces together, but I am advocating the full-monty and that is what you read about on this blog.


 


Tying it all together will enable an advertiser to make the best possible decisions regarding allocation of online media spend.  It will promote the best utilization of technology, improve product placement on web sites, increase the value of existing customers, the initial value of new customers and enhance the likelihood of increasing the utilization of interactive media as a channel for marketing.


 


See my ten-step recipe for full-integration of all the technology pieces of an online advertising campaign.


 


First let me redefine that a third party cookie is a vendor’s cookie and a first party cookie is an advertiser’s cookie.  Here is the recipe.

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Ten Step Recipe for a Fully-Integrated Online Marketing Initiative

In my next post, This I believe, I state my position on agencies, networks, ad servers, writers and pretty much all things online advertising related.  In the end I offer up a reciper for putting together all of the technologies into a holistic, comprehensive marketing initiative.  Here it is.

First let me redefine that a third party cookie is a vendor’s cookie and a first party cookie is an advertiser’s cookie.  Here is the recipe:


 


(1)            Starting with the tagging of a web site so that cookies can be set (first party cookies of course) when someone is on the site. 


(2)            Then add in Ad serving – first party ad serving (like the patent-pending DirectServe™) to promote products or services on the web. 


(3)            Mix in the search advertising and be sure to use the ad server’s first party cookie and leverage a redirect so that the search term can be embedded into the cookie so that when the user lands on the advertiser’s web page that search term is associated with that user.


(4)            Deploy customer re-targeting advertising whereby you leverage customer segments from the eCRM database to recognize and distinguish customers through ad campaigns with specific banner advertisements, rich media and video.


(5)            Deploy BT for anyone that visits the web site directly and cookie that user with a first-party cookie so that the re-targeting mechanism can work when they encounter that individual online (on a network or web site).


(6)            Engage with a site-side analytics provider that will use a first party deployment – like WebSideStory – and take full advantage of tracking anonymous user behavior across your web site.  Track all navigation patterns, entrance and exist points, product position preferences, sales cycles, etc.


(7)            Leverage site-side analytics to write the first party cookie and segment the cookie value based on user preferences in association with CRM data.


(8)            Feed the customer preference cookie value to generate the customer segments and associate the customer segments with creative target groups that the ad server will serve in the re-target campaigns (back to #4)


(9)            Have the DirectServe™ write to the cookie during the ad serving process the details of the ad serving history to the cookie so that when a prospect of customer comes to the site, the site-side analytics software can internalize all of the external activity and use it for further analysis on how someone became a customer or how returning customers were reacquired.  First party ad serving will give site-side analytics outside perspective of web marketing.


(10)       Complete the circle by leveraging the holistic view by analyzing the reports on how you acquire customers through BT, Search and Banner advertising, how you re-acquire existing customers through DirectServe™ first party ad serving and how both types interact with your site using site-side analytics.  Determine which messaging strategies, campaign combinations of banners and placements, search engines and terms and which technologies are delivering the greatest source of new customer and returning customer yield and make future media buying decisions based on that analysis.

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Post-Search Data and Banner Advertising


Phil Leggiere interviewed Right Media’s director of Product Management, Alex Hooshmand and published the interview in the January 31st 2007 edition of MediaPost’s Behavioral Insider. 


 


At the end of the interview, Phil asked about the new frontier of Behavioral Targeting, what is coming next.  Hooshmand’s response, “we now have several clients who are using post-search behavior to target banner or display ads.”  Let’s get into that.


 


So what are the options?


 


Obviously RightMedia has some offering within their exchange network although I have not been able to find anything more than that.  Plus as a hermetically sealed network you are limited to being a buyer or seller within that auction environment.  Works great for direct response, low-dollar advertisers and publishers with remnant inventory but not for the rest of the market.


 


One options is Post-search advertising.  AlmondNet delivers post-search paid-listings to users based on previous search behavior across its distributed ad network.  If a user searches on an item through conventional search, their search behavior is cookied and tracked.  When they are encountered in the future they are targeted with relevant paid listings.  This is a lot like behavioral targeting only with paid listings and with search instead of pixel-associated events.


 


MSN’s new AdCenter offers an advertiser the opportunity to target their search advertising by demographics, geography, day-part and several other parameters.  So they are using browser-based cookies to single-out users for targeting.  Crossing the chasm to then offer an advertiser the opportunity to subsequently advertise a banner ad to someone based on search response behavior would not be a hard leap to make.  But that is my supposition and is not something that has been publicly been brought to market.  But it will I am guessing.


 


Then of course there is my favorite, the creative approach that the early adopters are deploying.  Search advertising with First Party cookie ad serving. 


 


Advertisers that manage healthy search campaigns will usually employ the services of an ad server to track their campaigns – leveraging unique click-thru URLs and landing pages to track each keyword.  This approach enables the advertiser to measure the effectiveness of every keyword.  While the search engines may provide impression data on the keywords through their reports, and clicks, the ad servers can provide successful clicks and then post-click events (what happens after someone clicks on the keyword and enters the advertiser’s site) when the advertiser’s site is properly tagged with tracking pixels.


 


One of the benefits of using an ad server is to have the comparative reporting between a search engine’s reported clicks and actual clicks.  Up until recently, Google reportedly had a click-fraud rate of approx 12%.  Now it is 2% with the invention of something they refer to as “invalid clicks” making up the other 10%.  Invalid clicks are screened out clicks that you no longer have to pay for.  So they are making good on the evident occurrence of people clicking on multiple links before pages load, “stopped” browsers, spiders and bots, failed page loads and other behaviors that result in “fraud” click counts but unsuccessful events.  Whereas, the ad server counts the click as resulting in someone landing on the advertiser’s web page.


 


But back to the integration of search and banner advertising.  When using an ad server to manage search campaigns, a user receives a cookie when they click-thru to the advertiser’s web site.  I know I have gone though this before so my readers should have this down.  But the basics are as follows:


 


The cookie is placed on the browser so that they can be tracked through to the advertiser’s web page and the activity can be credited back to the keyword and search engine.  As this user continues to surf the web they can be recognized and targeted based on that cookie with banner ads. 


 


If it is a third-party cookie, it is event-based targeting.  TACODA, Advertising.com are network examples and Boomerang are ad server examples that can apply this technology and can target a user based on their search behavior.


 


If it is a first party ad serving implementation – DirectServe – then the cookie that is applied is the advertiser’s cookie.  The behavioral targeting features still apply insomuch that if all they do is visit the site, they can be targeted with future ads just like with the example described above for third party providers. 


 


But with first party implementations, the user can also be targeted based on advertiser knowledge generated from the site visit.  For example, if the user clicked on the search term and registered for information, purchased a product or applied for a loan then they are in the CRM system and are a known individual that can be included in a customer segment.  Customer segments can be targeted with DirectServe, first party ad serving. 


 


A user who clicks on a search term and visits the advertiser’s site; and who then completes some level of activity that results in their identification will get a first party cookie.  This individual can then be re-targeted with ads anywhere across the internet at anytime as a customer or registrant.  They can be up-sold, cross-sold or otherwise targeted as an anonymous member of a customer segment (brand preference, purchase frequency, buying habits, etc.).


 


Post-search behavior can be used to create the customer segments when the users arrive for the first time.  For example, the segment examples can further be dissected to include keyword groups so that when targeted, the advertisements appeal to keyword groups that initially generated the user’s response.  Once the user returns to the web page – just like when they first arrived at the site – a content management system can leverage the actual keyword to customize content delivery and properly display product information to maximize revenue or other desired response.


 


I’d love to hear from you on this.  This can be done a number of ways.  But the easiest that I have come across so far is to integrate the three – search, behavioral targeting and DirectServe/first party ad serving. 


 


As I have described in the past DirectServe has three phases of implementation: (1) re-targeting, (2) cookie-writing and data delivery for analytics and (3) integration – CRM, Content Management and Site-Side Analytics.  But for the purpose of this post and this example, I am really only focusing on re-targeting.  That is as far as you need to go and you will already be way ahead of the curve.


 


What else can you do?


 


If you integrate your search with your ad serving, leveraging post-search capabilities to drive your behavioral targeting (prospecting) and customer re-targeting (DirectServe), you will generate data that you can analyze about customers that will enable you to better understand not just what search terms generate leads but what search terms generate customers, customer segment groups, customer values, repeat custom actions and long-term metrics.  Grouping keywords together will help you determine long-term effectiveness of search campaigns.  Furthermore, by integrating post-search with banner advertising, you will be able to recognize how search and banner messages combine to effective solidify messages and have the same impact that can be measured with the same metrics described above.  You can go hog wild!  But most importantly you can measure and determine how to better allocate media spend.  If search works for you, you will know why and how.  You will come to recognize how to compliment it with banner advertising. 


 


Last thing.  When you use first party ad serving, the cookie that you tag a browser with helps you to measure advertising audience.  This means that when you advertise on Yahoo and you buy 1 M impressions, you will know exactly what % of that audience is comprised of existing customers and what % of that audience is comprised of people who have not been to your site before (or who have recently cleared out their cookie file). 


 


What about search?  The same holds true.  Any of your customers who carry your first party cookie will also be measurable.  If someone searches on a term and clicks through to your web site, and they are an existing customer already, they will be measured as an existing customer (their customer segment type will be measured) and you will know what % of the search audience you capture is already comprised of existing customers.  Interesting tidbit.  How much money do you spend with search recapturing recurring revenue?


 


Reactionary with Insight.

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