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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