Accepting the BIAKelsey GOLOCAL Award

go-local-logo-agendaThis past week, at The BIAKelsey Leading in Local conference in Atlanta, Kelsey distributed its new GOLOCAL awards in three categories – Sales/ Revenue, Innovation and Strategic use of digital marketing.  Nearly forty entrants were considered for these three categories and three finalists in each category were brought to Atlanta for the announcement of the winners.

Placeable was a finalist in the Strategic use of digital marketing for the successful partnership with AAA CarolinasHeather Mcbrien of AAA Carolinas and I represented the team and I presented an overview of what we had accomplished together to the audience, which included empowering AAA Carolinas to emerge as a fierce competitor in their local markets across all three of their primary business units (car care, travel and insurance).  These results included:

  • Indexing some 1200 authoritative local landing pages for 230 locations
  • Generating 800% increase in organic traffic
  • Producing 35K new visitors per month
  • 25% conversion rate on all unique visits to phone calls, registrations and appointments

Included in Heather’s description of some of the softer benefits that have been generated by our campaigns together was that of the decrease in the number of tire kickers that have been generated.  Specifically, Heather described that the quality of leads generated are now far more qualified and in active transaction mode as opposed to window-shopping.

Prior to the announcement of the winners, I was afforded the opportunity to share some of the specifics of the campaigns that have contributed to AAA Carolinas’ success.

Placeable’s data management platform has been leveraged to capture and convert multiple sources of AAA Carolinas location data into accurate information that remains current and flexible.  Placeable Pages expresses this unique content with smart locators, search optimized local landing pages and a supportive CMS system designed to optimize for local search.  Placeable Passes are used to syndicate AAA Carolinas data to the primary ecosystem including Google, Bing, Facebook, Foursquare, Acxiom and Factual.  Yahoo and Yelp are next.  Placeable Pages are leveraged to facilitate the expansion of unique location content and a fueled link marketing campaign for cities and agents further drive impactful results.

Although a finalist in the category of Strategic use of digital marketing, we in fact did not win.  However, had we won, I would have shared some of the following…

First I would have graciously thanked BIA and the esteemed judges on the panel.  I would have also thanked AAA Carolinas and Heather McBrien for being such a wonderful client and for joining us at the conference and for providing such a valuable endorsement for my company in such a spirited fashion.  And then I would have recognized my account teams who made everything really happen.  They are the real winners.

One of the guiding principles that makes Placeable such a special company is our call to our employee-owners to demonstrate their value everyday.  This means to demonstrate their value to themselves – to the company – and especially to their clients.  Being a finalist for this award – and the recognition by our peers – is a testament to that commitment and effort.

Placeable is dedicated to the ROI challenges that our enterprise customers face every day.  We attack the cost of waiting head-on.  We believe that nobody would accept a 76% confidence level in a pregnancy test.  We believe that nobody would accept a 51% confidence level that the surgeon might operate on the right leg once they go under.  And we feel that nobody should accept a negative consumer experience due to some level of inaccurate information about their company, when it is preventable.  We do not accept mediocrity, and neither do our customers.

Lastly, I would have invited members of the audience who feel the same way about perfecting customer experiences to come talk to us about how we can help them, overcome their data integrity issues and compete fiercely in local search as we have done with AAA Carolinas and so many other enterprise brands.

Predict Your Audience’s Preferences, Digging into [x+1]

[x+1]‘s VP of product development, Howard Fiderer explains in iMediaConnection how to make consumer data actionable so that you can tailor users’ experiences to their tastes on their very first visit in Predict Your Audience’s Preferences.


For those of you who are unfamiliar with the company, [x+1] is the former Poindexter.  Originally a primary ad serving company, Poindexter raised an eight-figure round of private financing in March of 2005 and used the funds to re-define the company from product, to target market, to brand.  Starting with adapting the mathematical formula x+1, Poindexter reset itself in the marketplace.  “We’re using this as an opportunity to mark a stake in the ground for a category we’re trying to define, marketing optimization,” the company’s CEO Toby Gabriner told ClickZ News in April 2005.  [x+1] proposed to focus on advertiser-marketing within the advertiser’s site while maintaining their advertising business, or ad serving business.  Ideally, they saw the opportunity to integrate the two products into a prospect-drawing and customer-targeting model as the ideal go-to-market.


First problem to overcome, Poindexter’s ad server was not viewed as a tier-one ad server in the market.  Although it had respectable market share, their reporting capabilities were commonly considered to be sub-par.  Major advertisers like American Express, who had termed contracts with Poindexter, complained about the lack of report diversity and the limitations of data availability.  Other agency users also had issues with their reporting, when their advertiser clients forced Poindexter on them.  That was the model for Poindexter, they sold to the advertiser so the agency would have to use them. 


Actually, it was more of a resultant model.  Poindexter sold to advertisers because they were looking to sell their ad serving and their developing predictive customer targeting back-end solution.  They promised improved reporting but it was not coming fruition on the ad serving side for customers. 


A Perfect example with regard to reporting shortfalls is the concept of ‘view-through.’  A view-through is when a user sees an advertisement served by an ad server but does not click on it.  Later that user visits the desired landing page which is tagged by the ad server and can be measured back by the ad server as having seen that particular ad on the associated site (placement) where it has been displayed.  This is known throughout the industry as a ‘view-through’ and [x+1] can not measure it, or at least does not report on it to its advertising customers.


But what [x+1] was particularly good at was/is the site-side customer analytics and applying those anaytics for targeting.  Like Howard’s article describes.  This is what secured their relationships with large advertisers who were using their ad serving as well.  The conversion from Poindexter to [x+1] was incredibly intelligent because it was a migration toward their core competency.  Following the April announcement, rumors spread that [x+1] would be abandoning their ad serving business altogether.  However they have maintained their media+1 product line, which is their ad server.  With that, however, they are hardly ever encountered as a competitive bidder in the ad serving sales arena.


One likeable aspect of Howard’s article was that it was not self-promoting.  Howard opens the door to site-side predictive modeling and website customer conversion and retention but he kept it very high level.  In fact, it would have been nice if he had gotten more granular for us so that we could have a better understanding as to how to apply his concepts.  I never have a problem when people mention providers – even their own companies – so long as they mention competitors and highlight the best solutions without bias. 


[x+1] offers up two primary products: media+1 and site+1.  Howard’s article is focused on a capability delivered by the latter, a tool that matches messages and offers with audience segments to simplify and optimize visitor acquisition, enable a site to up-sell conversions and promote customer retention.  This of course is according to the [x+1] web site.


My experience, and the feedback that I have received from clients is that site+1 is [x+1] true wheelhouse offering.  As I have described, this is where their ability to enable an advertiser to confidently target excels.  Ad serving is a secondary competency.  In fact, [x+1] has partnered with ad servers like DoubleClick to allow an advertiser to take advantage of site+1 while working with another ad server.  If not already, I would expect integration with more ad servers to come.  Clearly the company respects to obvious stats.  The first is that people are not going to change ad servers to utilize site+1 – they are not going to adapt media+1, known to be inferior, just to have the ability to utilize site+1.  Secondly, if someone is already using an ad server – and DoubleClick represents like 50% of the market (good first partner to choose), then better to enable integration to open up a new customer base than to compete.


Reactionary with Insight

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The First Party Ad Serving Rabbit Hole

Many customers who first begin to investigate DirectServe technology and the value proposition of customer re-targeting get that “wow” moment in their eyes when I speak with them.  People who read this blog contact me to learn more about the fundamental differences between traditional event-based behavioral targeting and customer-centric re-marketing.  When they get the premise of recognizing someone you know online through an ad campaign, gaining the capability to distinguish them based on a set of parameters that you set so that you can message to them uniquely, the “wow” expression rears its pretty face.


The value proposition conversation is what follows.


  1. No longer prospecting existing customers.  With first party ad serving, customers and prospects are distinguished so that you don’t prospect your existing customers but rather cross-promote products and up-sell to them, increasing recurring revenue opportunities


  1. Insight into Advertising Audience composition. For the first time, DirectServe enables an advertiser to measure the composition of their advertising audience – what % of the audience reach is comprised of existing customers and what % is comprised of prospects.  Being able to identify when it is time to move on from a site if prospecting is the primary objective becomes easy to quantify with first party ad serving.  Determining that a specific site is ripe for re-targeting is easy to determine as well if you find that the audience is largely comprised of your repeat-visiting customers.


  1. Target customer segment profiles that you set.  With first party ad serving, the cookie’s targeted by the ad server are set by the advertiser and are correlated to the advertiser’s customer segmentation model.  As that model grows, expands or evolves so too does the targeting reach of the ad server.  The ad serve does not need to even know the meaning of the cookie value, only what creative group to associate with a particular cookie value.  The advertiser maintains complete control over their messaging strategy.  With third party implementations of behavioral targeting – like the one referenced in Tom Hepos’ recent iMediaConnection article – the third party ad server would be keenly aware of the value and meaning of the cookie targets which exposes customer knowledge to a third party.  This can open Sarbanes Oxley doors or other privacy issues.


  1. Write ad serving data to your cookie that is relevant to your site.  With first party ad serving the ad server can write to your first party cookie values that reflect banners and site sequences that reflect that acquisition marketing campaign that ultimately produced the visit.  This data can be integrated with site-side analytics software or CRM solutions to create an entirely new class of customer profile data.


Now back to the rabbit hole.  I’ve talked about the 80/20 rule.  With DirectServe its more like 90/10.  Most of our clients engage DirectServe for re-targeting.  They write cookies reflecting customer segment values and we target those values with unique banners intended to reach those customer segment groups.  These clients are most frequently represented by ad agencies who do not look to expand the DirectServe capability into the data realm, and who don’t need to.  The benefits of DirectServe re-targeting are huge and so that is why we focus so heavily on it with out GTM.


The rabbit hole for DirectServe has to do with both Re-Targeting and the rest of DirectServe, what we can Analytcs.  From here on out I will just talk about the Re-targeting.


When you look at a traditional online ad campaign, you buy media across X number of sites with Y number of banner sizes to create Z number of placements represented by banner size and site-sitesection combinations.  With me?  10 sites with 2 different sizes demands a minimum of 2 creative.  But to optimize a campaign you will likely have three creative in rotation, so that’s 6 creative total to start. 


With DirectServe you will be targeting customer segments in addition to prospecting.  So the campaign plan described above is appended by the following:


If there are 3 customer segments (High Value Shopper, Low Value Shopper, Has not shopped in 6 mos), than there is the need to create 3 messages to each of these groups as well just like with the prospecting campaign so that you can optimize the campaign.  So that is 3 creative x 3 segments = 9 creative.  Add that to the prospecting campaign and you are up to 15 creative for just the two sizes that you will be running on the 10 sites that you have bought advertising on.


In summary:


Prospect Campaign:

·          Messaging – 3 creative

·          2 creative sizes

·          6 creative total

Re-Targeting Campaign:

·          Messaging – 3 messages x 3 groups = 9

·          2 creative sizes

·          18 creative total

Campaign Total:

·          12 unique messages

·          24 unique creative

·          (10 sites, 2 sizes=20 spots) = 240 placements


In the end, DirectServe introduces a great opportunity to dissect your audience up so that you can message exclusively to different customer segments and drive home specific results.  But the planning and creative requirements need to be kept in check too.  Out clients start off small on the level of something like the example described about just to begin to experience impact – results that are impressive and significant.  Then they begin to determine and test whether multiple customer segments is where they want to diversify or creative messaging or a combination of both.  The budget drain on message planning and creative is the variable that requires management with DirectServe.  But we have clients that are seeing 15-20% improvement in recurring revenue opportunities and that more than justifies the cost of additional creative!

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Web Analytics and Ad Serving – Proto-Analytics for 2007

Shane Atchison wrote in ClickZ today about Ominture and WebSideStory and what the future holds in 2007 for these two vendors.  I had a conversation with an agency person who was heavily into analytics from the UK yesterday with whom I discussed the integration opportunities of ad serving and web site analytics.  Shane’s predictions for 2007 promote great alignment for what we are working on now at TruEffect and introduced great opportunities for the advertiser looking to expand their understanding of site metrics to include acquisition marketing data. 


How someone arrives at a site and through what channels can be as important as what they do once they are there.  Decisions about what products to present, what messages to convey and what navigation pathways to promote, can be heavily influenced if you have insight into what pathway patterns produced the inbound traffic. 


But go one step further.  Acquisition marketing data is not just about impressions and clicks, uniques and view-throughs.  Acquisition marketing data is about sequential views of marketing messages that ultimately result in a visit.  What banners or ads were seen on what sites sequentially – including the ones that did not produce a response (click-thru). 


If you can have insight into the complete messaging process that eventually produces a lead or visit, then you know what not to say to someone when they arrive at your site as well as what to say to them – what product promotions will have higher response rates and what promotions will have weaker response rates based on the performance of the ad-site combinations.  The content of the sites you advertise on is as relevant as the ads you run.  This insight can be translated in real-time for you so you can effectively make decisions when people come to your site.




Integrating ad serving and web site analytics is the first major step.  We’ve covered this before on this blog so those of you who follow it will be familiar with what I am talking about.  But let’s consider Omniture and WebSideStory.  WebSideStory for example is capable of using a first party cookie when conducting site analytics.  That means that when they pixel your site and then deploy cookies on browsers to track patterned behavior they are using your domain-based cookie.  A cookie for example rather than a cookie. 


The benefits of this go into different areas including integration with CRM.  For example, the CRM system will be able to read the cookie written by the site analytics system in real-time and respond with knowledge known about a customer.  The content management system will also be able to read and respond to the cookie written by the site analytics system too and react with customer-targeted content.  None of this is possible if the cookie is a third party cookie.  It can not happen in real-time.  A cookie-synchronization step would be required.


But let’s look at ad serving.  Of course I love this part.  TruEffect created first party ad serving.  Named it DirectServe and stuck that little ™ on there to let everyone know it secured all kinds of patents.  With first party ad serving, TruEffect can serve advertising out of the first party domain – the advertiser’s domain – and read and write the advertiser’s cookie too.  The cookie for example.  That means that the information being associated with the activity that is being conducted outside of the advertiser’s domain can be accessed and interpreted by the advertiser when the individual arrives at the site.  We’re talking seamless integration of ad serving and site analytics.


In the past I have always promoted DirectServe as a customer re-targeting tool.  That is a huge front-end benefit of what it does.  It’s the next generation of behavioral targeting and introduces a capability of recognizing and distinguishing a customer through an online advertising campaign in real-time.  A customer can be re-targeted with an ad rather than be re-prospected and they can be up-sold or driven back to conduct some form of desired transaction or action.  With DirectServe, advertisers can dissect the advertising audience composition and message to each segment (known and unknown individuals) differently in real-time, thus driving up conversions exponentially.  It works incredibly well across many different types of advertisers, both direct response and brand-based driven.


But today I am talking about the back-side of DirectServe.  The data asset of the named value pairs that can be created by first party ad serving.  My conversation yesterday introduced the question of privacy.  What happens when you write a cookie to a browser that is someone that is not an existing customer of, say  A prospect.  This cookie may have all the acquisition marketing data included in it – every banner seen and every site those banners were seen on sequentially.  When the individual lands on, WebSideStory would be capable of internalizing that data and continuing to track that anonymous – key characteristic here people – individual on an ongoing basis.  With some tweaking of their reports, WebSideStory will be able to report on all of the acquisition marketing history collectively as well as the site analytical history that has taken place.  So no violation of privacy.


Of course additional benefits of the DirectServe data asset also exist.  For example, collectively the advertiser can also aggregate the acquisition marketing data from all of the individuals who land on their site and create a new classification of customer or registrant profile.  This has to be kept anonymous and cannot be associated with known customer records (that would be a PII violation) but the benefit is incredible!  Advertisers can gain insight into trends on how customers respond to message-site combinations and predict behaviors for future media buy decisions.  Couple that with the web site analytics data, and you can create a holistic prediction model of customer acquisition from advertising through site-based product promotion to the point-of-sale that will be based on proven data.  This is an analysts dream!


Okay okay.  You have to sophisticated enough to do all of this.  And I have customers who are on this level.  But I would say that is the 80/20 rule.  Maybe even 90/10 rule.  With the minority being the one’s who will go all the way with this.  Most of our clients are staying with the re-targeting strategy.  Which is very significant alone.  Others are investigating and working to integrate DirectServe and site analytics for reporting.  And then there are those who will “go-all-the-way” (Superbowl enthusiasts can read that dramatically).  Where will you be in 2007?

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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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