More on Quantcast

In doing some more digging, Quantcast has a bit of a hill to climb.  A free service to advertisers and ad agencies, Quantcast has not yet determined its long-termed revenue model.  For now it is simply trying to build content and loyal usership.


In a January 4th 2007 ClickZ article by Zachary Rogers entitled: New Site Ratings Service Aims for the Long Tail, David Smith of MediaSmith, who has tested Quantcast extensively, admits that while Quantcast offers visibility on millions of sites, the data is far from perfect. “The general rule is the larger the site, the more accurate the data, but there are always cases where the data is more or less accurate because of biases,” according to Quantcast’s CEO Konrad Feldman.


Recognizing that many [smaller] agencies and advertisers can’t afford research services, Quantcast seems to be committed to providing its information for free, at least for the time being.  Whether they try to move into the media buying space or somehow otherwise insert themselves into the agency’s activities in an attempt to generate revenue through the provision of their data through another means is far off.  For now they are keen to acquire the content and build the brand loyalty.  A model that is familiar to all of us.  Who knows, perhaps it will be the publishers who they will ask to pay down the road if they can demonstrate the value!


In a January 16th blog posting, Zachary Rogers followed up on his article with Quantcast Launches Keyword Research Tool where like the publisher tool, the new keyword tool “…turns up warnings about data too scarce to be reliable, so the feature clearly has a long way to go.”


Still in its infancy, Quantcast has work to do.  The depth of data and inconsistency of results will not leave users feeling that they can rely on it permanently.  So the audience will remain those who can not afford the more widely accepted applications until that changes.  So a warning to those who I had previously advised to engage this product in my post, David Smith and The Medium is the Metric for Online Ads, this one may not quite be ready for primetime – hence the word beta.

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Improve Your Stats, Don’t Over Analyze, Make Decisions and Execute

WOW!  Range Online Media’s President, Misty Locke’s article in iMedia Connection today is fantastic.  Think Like a Coach to Improve Your Stats – Bravo!  It’s a must read.  Rarely do you find someone who can lay it all out there in a way that an advertiser might actually understand.  I would say the only thing wrong is that Dawn Anafuso didn’t put it at the top of the home page on iMedia Connection or run it for two days so that it gets higher readership!


Misty talks about the integration of campaign mediums but she talks about the use of data and the cross channel analysis of a campaign to figure out how the impact of one channel may be affecting the response rate of another.  


Last year David Smith ( challenged the industry to create a digital dashboard of all of his advertising channels so that he could easily see the performance of all of his campaigns.  I remember this article, not just because iMediaConnection ran it again in there string of reruns during the holidays, but because I called David and talked with him about his challenge and needs.


TruEffect built an ad server, TruAdvertiser.xls™ that functions entirely within Microsoft Excel.  A user manages planning, proposals, creative, scheduling, trafficking, optimization and reporting all from within Microsoft Excel.  <IMG src="/images/44768-40810/CreativeDialog.jpg”>  <IMG src="/images/44768-40810/CampaignReportView2___02.jpg”>
It is a thin-client application that connects over the web to the ad server infrastructure at TruEffect and allows an agency or advertiser complete access to all of the expected advanced features of an ad server right from their desktop.  As a Microsoft Office-integrated solution, all of the reporting data streams in XML right into pivot tables and graphs and charts that a user formats one time.  They build their reports and then simply refresh whenever they want the updated data, never having to reformat a report again.


What’s the point of this plug?


David and I talked about how we could use TruAdvertiser.xls as a platform for his multi-channel dashboard.  It is desktop-based and is highly flexible when it comes to reporting capabilities.  Our product roadmap at the time already included integration with search engines like Google, MSN and Yahoo so not only would he have the ad server reports but the Google and Overture reports too for cross-analysis.  Additionally we were working with accounting integration so that he would be able to have that benefit too.  Email marketing data could easily be ported in as could other XML-driven feeds.  But in the end it represented a lot of custom work and David was going down the path of building something on his own. 


Back to Misty’s fabulous article (I really liked it).  Misty inspires one to dive in with both feet and, well if not careful, eyes closed.  Cross-channel reporting comes in many different forms.  There is realistically no platform for seeing every channel in a consolidated format and no perfect way to measure the impact of print on email or walk-ins or direct mail on view-thrus (now there is two hops, a skip and a jump).  You can try but at some point you have to allow things to fall into separate buckets and make assumptions.


But what is possible is great consolidation of online data.  I have been talking about acquisition marketing data – banners, search and email – with site analytics and will talk about it more.  Behavioral targeting’s next generation of customer re-targeting with DirectServe or first party ad serving can fully integrate data that could never be captured before, like measuring the composition of an advertising audience.  Now you can know what % of your audience represents existing customers!


Make sure that your technology allows you to get three dimensional views into the performance of your campaigns.  Misty is encouraging you to get aggressive and be proactive.  Data builds knowledge and that knowledge will make your decision-making powerful.  Since my conversations with David, we have proven integration capabilities with a number of unique platforms and data sources.  Other companies are doing it too.  Find a way to pull together at least your interactive channels so that you can see how they come together. 


If you acquire someone through search and they land on a web page and register, make sure that your advertiser cookies that individual so that when you encounter them again you can re-target them as an existing customer through first party ad serving and message to them with relevance to their previous search behavior and customer preferences to maximize future response rates.  You can do this stuff! 


Behavioral targeting will get you better prospects.  Pull that data into a consolidated interface – use XML feeds and build a data repository if you have to or call me and I will point you in the right direction.


Your email marketing will spew out ton’s of response rate data that can be easily ported into a consolidated interface.


I already covered search.


And ad serving data is clear.


Get a consolidated view as to how you acquire people, and then make sure that you are tagging them – or that your clients are tagging them – so that you can continue to target them as customers on an ongoing basis.  The worst thing you can do is to waste money re-prospecting and not getting credit for someone who you drove in twice.  If an existing customer clicks on a banner and comes to a site, you will not be getting credit for that customer’s return.  You could if you were re-targeting.  And if they click on a search term and land on the customer’s web page, you could be site-based targeting using first-party ad serving to re-target and product-promote based on preference and known behavior.


Get the data, consolidate it and then make decisions.  But most of all, deploy technologies that will enable you to effectively use the data to become strategic in your decision making and execution.  The end-game purpose is campaign improvement.  My focus is to show that the technology is there to do it.

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How Does Re-Targeting Work?

TruEffect has branded first party ad serving under the trademark name DirectServe™ Technology.  But for the purpose of this post, let me simply define that this technology is a type of ad serving that enables an advertiser or agency to re-target known audiences in addition to driving new opportunities as is done with traditional third party ad serving today.


Re-targeting takes advantage of an advertiser’s existing relationship with a known audience.  This may be a customer-base, registrant-base or applicant-base.  It may also be a partial applicant, i.e., someone who dropped out of an application process.  Whatever the case may be, re-targeting requires that an advertiser have some previous interaction and relationship with an individual so that they can have had the opportunity to classify that person on an anonymous basis.  For example, a retailer may classify existing customers by shopping habits, buying frequency, etc. 


Now don’t get your privacy feathers all up in a bunch, because this already a widely accepted practice.  Retailers use first-party cookies to track the behaviors of their customers online.  Other sites use first party cookies to recognize their customers as well, like banks, online stock portfolio providers and customized news providers.  Any site that recognizes you when you get there has used a first party cookie to do so.  And generally speaking, it is convenient to you as a user that they have done so.


With re-targeting it is the same thing.  And advertiser uses their first-party cookie capability to segment their customers, registrants or other known audience.


DirectServe, TruEffect’s patented technology, enables the ad server to read the first party cookie of the advertiser so that it can target that cookie with ads.  Big picture … when the ad server encounters a member of an advertiser’s known audience, they can be recognized by the ad server, distinguished from an unknown individual and messaged to accordingly.


What exactly does that mean?  It means that when an advertiser uses an ad server to manage its campaign online, it can re-target its existing audience anywhere on the web at anytime – across any web site and any network.  It is not a prospect-generating tool like BT, but then again BT is really event-based targeting.  Re-targeting is based on known customer behaviors.  The cookies set, the first-party cookies are named value pairs set based on customer segment models determined by the advertiser, based on customer behavior.


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Where Does Behavioral Targeting Go From Here?


Dawn Anfuso asked several industry insiders in her iMedia Connection article, “Where Does BT Go From Here,” about what happens now with all of the recent developments in the space and in the wake of the FTC filing.  I was one of the contributors to the story.


Each of the other commentators discussed the idea of educating the industry.  The idealism of bringing the market forward into the realm of comprehension and acceptance of the premise that cookies and tracking produce a favorable experience will overcome the conspiracy theories and privacy violation alarmists.


In 2004 and into 2005 there was the great cookie debate.  At Ad-tech in NY and then as a spill-over in San Francisco, everyone talked about third party cookies.  The industry was alarmed with the ever increasing rate by which cookies were getting deleted.  Anti-spyware and adware software were black-listing ad servers and web site analytic software cookies and users were manually blowing out cookie files on a monthly basis.  The idea of education seemed to be the most popular result.  Article after article and debate after debate, people said that if we could just get users to understand the value proposition of a cookie they would relax.  Never happened. 


According to Jupiter Research, over 40% of third party cookies get deleted every month.  And that figure is steadily climbing.  The data asset once touted by ad servers is rapidly depleting and the behavioral targeting capabilities of networks and ad servers like DC’s Boomerang is only has a 60% reach capability and dropping.  When someone deletes their cookie they fall off the system.  When they are re-encountered and get re-cookied, they are treated like a new person.  None of the original behavioral history is re-captured.


As I was quoted in Dawn’s article this morning, from my perspective, it’s time for behavioral targeting to advance. Ad servers and networks target prospects according to event-based behavior. This is predicated on anonymous third-party cookies and has a shelf life of 30 days. 


The recent FTC filing is likely to be the first of a mounting band-wagon. Whistle-blowers, politicians and anyone else who believes in the big-brother conspiracy theory may decide to jump on this.  It has happened before and over the next two years it is a perfect political platform leading up to the 2008 election.


Evolution is where attention should be paid. The next generation of behavioral targeting is to re-target customers through online advertising. A marketer can communicate with someone with whom they have a relationship, without being accused of violating privacy. A clearly stated set of data policies can enable a marketer to leverage customer behavior to create models for advertising, just as is done with direct marketing.


Behavioral targeting is now capable of distinguishing existing customers through online advertising campaigns, instead of prospecting based on events. Using first party cookies instead of third party cookies avoids the 40% deletion phenomenon and preserves the data asset.  Moving in this direction will bring behavioral targeting forward instead of holding it back in a winless battle about rights and privacy.


There is little to gain in trying to educate the market when the market will not listen.  But if we react to the environment with the insight of what has been happening around us, we can realize that the technologies are ready to be applied in a different way to produce new, exciting and even more effective results.

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Taking Aim at Targeted Advertising – This Spells Trouble, Especially for TACODA

Catherine Holahan published an article today, Taking Aim at Targeted Advertising in that brings up the idea of opt-in vs. opt-out privacy with respect to behavioral targeting.  It suggests that giving people the ability to decide if they want to be tracked is a viable option without considering what will happen to the independence of the Web.  TACODA has tried to distance itself from the debate with a proactice resolution which could bring more trouble to the company than benefit.


The CCD is meeting with the FTC on Thursday (Nov 17th) as a follow-up to their November 1st complaint filing.  They want to see people given the right to opt-in to cookie tracking and targeting.


In complete reactionary mode, TACODA is limiting their cookie lifespan to 1 year and is offering people the opportunity to acquire a cookie to block the cookie that TACODA uses to track people’s behaviors.  Let me get this straight, use a cookie to block a cookie.  Maybe we need a little explanation about how cookies work….


A cookie is a text file that is posted to a users browser.  Only a domain can write or read it’s own cookie file.  So, if writes a cookie, only TACODA can read that cookie, nobody else.  The cookie may be a “” cookie or it may be a “ “cookie.  Either way, only TACODA can write or read it.


Now, when a user lands on a domain, the web site automatically looks for its cookie files.  This is inherent to how web site servers operate.  You actually can not prevent a web site from scanning a browser for its cookies.  That means that if there is a TACODA cookie, it WILL get read.  Regardless of whether it is the cookie that is intended to track behavior or if it is a cookie intended to not track behavior, it will be read by TACODA’s servers.  TACODA may decide not to do anything with the data recorded by the “” cookie, but it will still read it when it sees it. 

The only way to avoid reading cookies is to make sure that there is no cookie to be read.  That means that there can never have been a TACODA cookie written which is not possible, obviously.

So this initiative by TACODA is a rouse.  All they are doing is proposing to put out a cookie that will tell them not to record information about someone when in fact they will still be tracking you!  But I bet you will not find this explanation coming anywhere from TACODA.


The only way to serve ads completely absent of cookies, cookieless ad serving, is to do so from a domain that has never written or read a cookie – a virgin domain.  TACODA is a domain with cookie history prevalent on the web so it is impossible for it not to encounter its own cookie.  TruEffect offers SafeServe™ Cookieless Ad serving, another patented innovation and a topic for another blog entry.  Serving ads from a domain that has never written a cookie means it will never encounter a cookie to read: cookieless ad serving.


The take away here is this: TACODA has run forward with a fast reactive solution to try to distance itself from the smoke of this FTC complaint.  But it is easy to point out that they have actually created a potentially bigger problem for themselves insomuch that they can’t turn off their tracking.  Anyone with any TACODA cookie, will have that cookie read and is therefore, by definition, being tracked.

Your comments are welcome.

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