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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