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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Making a Complaint to the FTC Based on Promotional Materials and Out-of-Context Quotes Can Make You Look Foolish

So this is the underlining problem with the filing with the FTC.  The CCD and the US PIRG have based all of their points on the promotional material that they have found on the Web sites and the marketing material that they have obtained from the companies they attacked in their filing.


No interviews were conducted, no customers were conducted.  No focus groups were assembled and no surveys were taken to investigate whether the public actually feels like their personal privacy is being violated.


Let’s face it.  I am in sales and so are a lot of you.  Whether you are an agency person, an advertiser or someone that is in some manner promoting yourself, your company or your capabilities you are selling something.  When we sell, promote or persuade we sell.  We present capabilities in the best possible light using the most persuasive language and speak to the lowest common denominator.  Most of all, we speak and write in a manner that conveys compelling interest that will resonate with the target audience.  Promotional materials rarely demonstrate accurate representations of what technologies actually do.  All of my arguments about behavioral targeting is a perfect example of this.  The industry has bastardized this term because it resonates with the market and conveys the idea of being able to target people’s behaviors online.  Even when in fact that is not what the technology is actually doing.


The FTC complaint uses ValueClick as an example of behavioral targeting, it describes the company as already knowing a lot about people online, “…using personal data collection and Web analytics to craft highly personalized marketing campaigns.”  But the citation that the filing uses to support its argument comes directly from the ValuClick promotional Web site:


ValueClick Media’a behavioral targeting solutions give you the ability to identify and communicate with specific users based on their past web browsing behavior.  With User Re-Targeting, ValueClick can identify and serve customized messaging to consumers who have demonstrated an active interest in your product or service by having visited your site.


This promotional statement does not explain that the event-based targeting solution is anonymous based targeting.  It does not explain that the approach is pixel-targeting with third-party cookies that get deleted 40% of the time and have a 60% accuracy or penetration with your desired audience.  It does not explain that there is not Personally Identifiable Information (PII) collected or leveraged by the process.  Privacy is not impacted by this solution.  The filers of the FTC complaint have read and interpreted the promotional materials on this Web site at face value and provided it as evidence without comprehending what it means.


To make matters worse, the very next paragraph claims that the targeting can be complemented with demographic targeting (Age, Gender, HHI, # of Children, Household size, Education Level, Race) from Comscore MediaMetrix.  This information is maintained based on database aggregation sources from publishers.  So an advertiser can buy media on web sites that maintain this information who have collected it from users who knowingly provided it!  Do people provide information about themselves with no expectation of what it may be used for?  Furthermore, is demographic information provate?  Comscore’s demographic database information is aggregated and anonymous so again I ask you where is the violation.


The writers of the FTC complaint clearly do not know what they are talking about.  Were not advised by industry experts.  Did not take the care to investigate the solutions they are attacking.  And are now looking foolish in the eyes of anyone who comprehends this industry and the solutions that comprise our way of conducting business online.

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Make Your Media Buy More Effective – But How?

Brad Bender published an article to in iMedia Connection entitled: “Make your Media Buy more Effective” that unfortunately gets a C+.  Brad starts off real strong as he is talking to advertisers about expecting more out of publishers for the dollars you spend, but he fails to give us the practical tools or insight to empower us to do that.

Brad talks about the fact that publishers have optimization capabilities – capabilities that should make our campaigns more effective.  Brad is the VP of Optimization Solutions at DoubleClick and yet he does not bother to share what those solutions are.  Presumably his role is associated with DART for Publishers (DFP) which is the ad serving platform that publishers use to manage the ad serving on their web sites. SO if anyone knows what a web site is capable of doing for advertisers, Brad should know it.

Brad talks to us about sharing the objectives of a campaign with publishers with the hope that the publishers will know how to better maximize the spend we make with them.  But unless our spend is significant how can we really expect that the publisher will put forth the effort.  Publishers work for themselves.  Their motivation is the bigger picture.  Sure they will optimize your campaign performance insomuch to assert that they can get your spend on the next campaign, but is that optimal?

I think that someone like Brad is in the unique position to share his insight with us about what a publisher is actually capable of doing.  Empower you as a buyer so that you can know what to ask for rather than telling you to share your needs with a publisher and see what they offer. 

The only take away that you can get from this article is that it is a sellers market and therefore if you can overcome that, you get power, and power will get you results.  So if smaller buyers band together to represent significant spend, they will get power in the buy – like a significant spender has.  Aggregators of spend.  Folks like
CPA Empire and Memolink work for direct response advertisers and buy in bulk to generate leads and acquisitions.  There are a lot of these bulk buyers out there.  Having stronger spend power is one way to force a publisher to pay attention to your campaign.  When Yahoo buys advertising; when AOL buys advertising; when American Express Buys advertising, publishers are responsive provided that the agencies that represent them know what they are asking for.

Buyer knowledge is key to a transaction.  A publisher is looking to secure your business, keep your business and then preserve high value inventory for the next client and repeat the process.  Optimization burns high value inventory and reduces revenue potential.  So don’t expect it to be volunteered.  You will have to know what you are asking for.

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It’s Just a Bunch of ROI, with Direct Response – Clue in Your Agency

Who has the greatest interest in ROI?  Who has the most at stake when it comes to advertising online and direct response advertising?  With regard to actual investment of dollars and common sense, is it the agency or the advertiser?  Who has the most to gain and who has the most to lose?

At the advertiser level, the importance of ROI is more obvious.  Sales are responsible for generating revenue and are supported by marketing who generates product or service demand.  Those people bear the burden of modeling programs that generate leads and attain a cost-per-lead (CPL) at an ever-decreasing rate.  Whether they do it in-house or they employ an agency, they are striving to drive the CPL down in order to support a growing revenue demand within the company.  So there is the motivation.

ROI is a product of the CPL or the cost-per-acquisition (CPA) over total investment made.  Different buying models come into play for different media with respect to online as we all know – CPM (impressions), CPC (clicks), CPL (leads) and CPA (acquisitions) – but for the advertiser it’s all about turning the dials to generate the demand so that sales can drive up the revenue.  Total investment made is the BIG picture (creative, expenses, R&D, technology, personnel, etc.)  The advertiser evaluates its marketing team based on its ability to generate an increasing return on the investment made.

Okay so B-school lingo aside, what is the marketing person’s motivation?  Is their compensation somehow tied to their ability to drive the ROI in a positive direction?  Well, probably not.  Maybe it should be.  But there are probably other incentives in place that motivate this individual to focus on this number pretty strongly.  Quarterly goals, etc.  Its in there.  Because to most people who own the marketing budget at an advertiser, ROI is a very personal figure.

So, why would an advertiser use an agency?  They are increasing the investment right?

If an agency is employed, the advertiser’s investment in the process becomes that much higher.  The decision to bring an agency into the mix is a calculated one.  The return has to be strong as a result of the agency’s involvement because performance must now also overcome the increased cost of the agency’s involvement.  A solid agency will bring competency and expertise to the table that the advertiser simply does not have.  But this needs to extend beyond the senior ranks and the business development team of the agency. 

At the agency level, ROI is also about the client’s ability to attain a desirable CPL or CPA.  But this figure is not necessarily internalized, it’s not personal.  This is a figure that is set by the client and it is the agency’s job to achieve it.  But when you dig into the agency, beyond the senior ranks and into the file you don’t find the same level of passion.  Not always anyway.  The agency does strive to meet the defined CPA, as they want to keep the client’s business, but they don’t necessarily shoot above and through the ceiling.  They don’t shoot for the ROI objective that the client holds dear.  See the difference? 

The agency is not compensated based on its ability to meet the advertiser’s ROI objectives.  It is compensated by it’s retainers and service fees and commissions.  There is no vested interest by the agency to drive the CPA or CPL lower and lower.  There is no incentive to improve the ROI, only to meet the defined CPA/CPL.  The only incentive that exists is to do what is necessary to keep the business and perhaps garner more budget dollars from the client. 

So do we change how an agency gets compensated when working with a direct response advertiser?  Maybe.  Maybe what needs to happen is direct response advertisers need to examine how they align the way they compensate agencies with their long-term goals.  Of course an agency will still want its commissions, retainers and fees, but a solid advertiser will negotiate a position for itself that rewards the performance it desires most.  Do they want their agencies focused on CPA and CPL or do they want them focused on the larger picture, on ROI?  Maybe its time to bring the agency into the fold and reward them for attaining your goals as an advertiser.  Clue them in.

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Behavioral Marketing: In Focus – Targeting Success Stories and The Upcoming Holiday Season

Robert Moskowitz published an article today in iMediaConnection entitled: “Behavioral Marketing: In Focus – 5 Targeting Success Stories.”  Two of the stories have some relevance to a topic that I cover on this blog – equating behavioral targeting to event-based targeting and the opening the door to what behavioral targeting can mean when we consider customer re-targeting.

The first story I would like to talk about is Ecommerce – Sequencing Ads.  In this piece he describes your basic storyboarding of banner rotations with a twist.  The first time someone sees a banner, they see a full price ad.  If they click on that banner and visit the site they get cookied and are considered having experienced an ‘event’ (my definition not Robert’s).  Subsequently if that individual is encountered on the Web again through an ad campaign, s/he is shown a discounted ad upon being recognized as being someone that has been through the event.

So it is a spin on storyboarding insomuch that storyboarding deals with prospect-targeting and rotating ads in sequence without the event of having visited the advertiser’s web page(s).  But this pretty basic event-based targeting example is hardly what I would characterize as behavioral targeting.  We know next to nothing about this user other then the fact that they once clicked on an ad and visited the advertiser’s web page.  They could be a customer already, they could be a prospect.  Who knows.

Like other examples of what people consider “behavioral targeting,” all we have here is someone that has seen a web page before.  Had this person registered, logged on or somehow identified themselves through some incentive, and then left, and we later recognized them through an ad campaign, then we could consider it behavioral targeting.  We would know something about them and could target them based on some behavior or customer segment model.

The statistical results cited in this article were impressive, re-messaged leads represented 25% of the traffic and 50% of the revenue.  But only 7% of the banner impressions served were re-targets.  That means that only 7% of the audience composition was the same audience.  So all of the effort made in capturing people from the event, cookieing them and then getting setup for the re-target reached that audience 7% of the time.  This means that the media buy was not effective in getting to where the audience repeat-visits.  A lot of wasted effort.

When we work with people on customer re-targeting, we help them recognize that when there are sites – more so than networks – that consistently perform well month over month, there is a high likelihood that those sites are visited repeatedly by existing customers as well.  DirectServe campaigns can potentially find audience compositions of pre-existing customers to be as high as 25% or more when implemented.  So when you execute a campaign designed to capture people who have been through an event before, you should be media buying where they will repeat-visit.  Networks are a hard place to do that due to shear size and broadness of the networks composition.  Whereas sites that consistently perform well will likely be sites that are also visited repeatedly by your customers in addition to prospects to it is a win-win for customer acquisition and re-acquisition.

Customer re-targeting is a lot closer to behavioral targeting than event-based targeting is.  But I dare not confuse you by changing the definition for fear of getting lopped in with what is a failure-to-meet-expectation offering.  Customer re-targeting can be customer, registrant or applicant re-targeting.  It is the re-targeting of any known individual.  So if someone clicks on an ad, visits a site and identifies themselves, you can re-target them later based on information you now know about them.  How?  You build user segment groups for your targeting.

The second Story of Roberts that I think is relevant is Seasonal Retailers – Extra Incentives.  This example comes very close to what I am talking about, only it is confined to the 24/7 network.  Again it is event-based as it tags users who have been to a flower shop web site, makes the assumptions that they have shopped and then later targets them with ads following the assumption that they were previous customers.

Had this been true customer re-targeting rather than event-based targeting, the flower shop would have already tagged its customers with cookies at the time of the initial transaction.  Then when it came time to serve ads, they could recognize its existing customers – segmented based on a model of customer profiles – and message to its audience accordingly.  Instead of assuming someone is a customer, you could know they are a customer.  Furthermore, if the individual does not carry the cookie tag, meaning they are not a customer (or they deleted the cookie), then you can easily distinguish them and message to them as a prospect!

How does all of this become relevant to the holiday season?

Now is the time that people will be getting ready to shop online in droves.  A storm is coming to the e-tailers and they are scrambling to get ready.  If e-tailers can create a customer segmentation scheme now – such as a 5 or 10-point schema that describes customer preferences – and cookie customers as they shop between November 1st and December 1st, they could use those cookies for re-targeting online through their online ad campaigns from December 1st through December 24th.  Furthermore, all of the cookies that get written during the holiday season that segment customers for each e-tailer could be leveraged by the online ad campaigns for these advertisers throughout the rest of the year. 

Sounds simple doesn’t it?  It really is.  An ad server targets cookies.  If the cookies are written to reflect a customer segment target then they can be recognized and targeted.  If the advertiser writes the cookies and the ad server can read the cookies, then BOOM you have the integration of online ad serving and online marketing.  That is DirectServe.

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How to Pick an Ad Server – Part V: Training

Training is HUGE.  The Big 3 will charge you for training.  This is a negotiable item.  Not always but sometimes.  At least initial training.  But the Big 3, whose interfaces are complex and hard to use for a beginner will charge you every time you need to train someone new.  In an agency, let’s face it, the trafficking guy or girl is usually the lower person on the totem pole.  A new hire.  So these people usually need to be trained and when they get promoted a new person needs to get trained.  Unless it is a smaller agency where someone wears multiple hats and continues to run the ad server.  Find out about initial training when you are evaluating ad servers but also find out about ongoing training.  Find out about what it will cost to train people as you bring on new users.  Find out about what it will cost to train people as new features get added and what it will cost to have updated training when you want a refresher.  I bring this up because we have a very different perspective on this than the rest of the industry.  I am not tooting TruEffect’s horn and I try real hard not to do that on this blog.  To me, an ad server gets paid when a client uses the ad server.  Sure costs need to be kept under control and training and customer support are sources of potential rising costs.  But training builds knowledge in a user so that a user becomes more confident and uses the system, hence more ad serving, hence more revenue for the ad server.  So why charge for training?  We don’t generally charge for training, certainly not initial training, and we try to host monthly training classes on an as-needed basis so that clients can have refreshers whenever they need them.  Any time there is a new enhancement or release, we train all clients.  If a client calls in with a question to their dedicated Account Manager they get trained on that issue on the spot.  Other ad servers will sell you blocks of support time or training time to do the same thing – hidden costs you should look into during the sales cycle.  Again, not tooting a horn here.  What I am doing is providing you with insight so that you know what questions to ask.

Another aspect of training is to find out what you will train on.  What I mean is, will you train on a demo sandbox environment or will you train on your own campaigns?  It seems relevant to me because after all of your analysis and research, when you finally select an ad server, you are ready to go.  In fact most clients I work with are ripping and raring to go.  In fact, they are late with a campaign and are needing to get going now!  So training is an immediate need and so what you will be trained with IS important.  DC, Atlas and Mediaplex will train you in what is called a sandbox.  It is a demo environment where you will use fake campaigns and will be shown how to do things.  I don’t personally know what Zedo does.  But the best way to train is on your own campaigns and on your own data.  When you get trained, ask to get trained with a campaign that you need to get setup so that you kill two birds with one stone.  Usually you don’t even have time to do all of the training in one sitting by the time you finish your decision and that should be okay.  If you have spent as much time as most people on the selection process, an ad server should be willing to still put a little more time in with you and not simply flip you over to customer support so fast. 

My clients get trained in real-time, so to speak, on campaigns that they need to get setup.  Their dedicated Account Managers share a hosted environment wherein insertions are built, digital assets are loaded and placements are assigned.  Schedules are built and tags are sent together by the Account Manager and the client.  The training is conducted all while the campaign is completed so that they client is able to do real work while getting trained.  It is a good use of your time that way.  I tell my buyers this when I am selling to them, whether you work with me or not, make sure you get this from whatever ad server you work with.  Don’t let your valuable time get wasted with training in a demo environment unless you have that sort of time.  Negotiate detailed training on top of the contract for a time when you have it in addition to campaign setup training.

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How to Pick an Ad Server – Part IV: Price

Price.  Here is a biggie.  I have mentioned before that I see $0.025 and I see $0.33 CPMs.  I see $0.01 and I see $0.03 CPCs.  Atlas is notoriously the most expensive and Zedo and Mediaplex the least expensive.  Cheapest has its hidden costs in reliability of technology, lack of or quality of client support, inefficiency of scalable architecture, poor ease of use and a potential limitation in the number of sites that will accept the ad server’s tags (I haven’t touched that one before – but not all sites accept all ad servers).  The most expensive ad servers also does not mean they are the best. 

Prices are usually tiered, getting cheaper with more use.  The bands can run something like this:

• 1-25 million impressions/mos
• 25-50 million impressions/mos
• 50-75 million impressions/mos
• 75-100 million impressions/mos
• 100-300 million impressions/mos
• 300-500 million impressions/mos
• 500-1 billion impressions/mos
• >1 billion impressions/mos

Not everyone sees all of those tiers and every agency and advertiser will see a variation on these tiers and on the rates.  But that’s a pretty standard example.  Sharing with an ad server during the sales cycle your current impression volume is important.  And being accurate is also important because they will provide you with preferred rates.  But also be sure to share what you believe your growth will be as they will give you the higher tiers.  Don’t make the mistake of saying we get 50M impressions because you will only get tiered up to 50 or 100M impressions.  If you grow your rate will get stuck at that top tier and you could get better rates as you grow if you have the higher tiers in your contract.

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