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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