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. Continue reading

Local Retailers Win When They Optimize for Local Search

modifiedA related article entitled “Local Search Marketing, Accuracy Trumps Distribution” may be viewed on CMO.com

Retail success has long been largely dependent on physical location. Selecting commercial space requires consideration of many factors including demographics, socio-economics, competitive proximity, traffic patterns and more.  Multi-location retailers apply a great deal of strategy when opening a store.  Mall retailers will swap locations when premium space becomes available so that they are more visible to consumers passing by.

Today, however, location means more than capturing the passer-by.  Location also means being found by the digital searcher.  70% of consumers research local products and services on a desktop and then use their mobile device to get where they want to go.  A consumer that has decided to visit your store is in buy-mode.  Will they find you?  Did you take steps to ensure that a consumer would know that you changed locations in the mall?  Will your store be located where the “X” marked the spot?  Is the premium location really premium if a consumer shows up at the doorstep of another business instead of yours?  How much revenue will you miss out on?

Continue reading

Marketing Groups: Closing the Great Divide

Ted Shergalis is chief product officer and founder of [x+1], and he contributed Marketing Groups: Closing the Great Divide to iMediaConnection this morning.


Ted’s experience in working with marketers should be significant and therefore I would guess has relevance to the topic.  What concerns me, however, is the generalization with which he describes the silo organizational structure between his clients’ external marketing (media buying and advertising) and customer marketing (web site management, etc.).  Not only does Ted confirm that the teams working on these two functions are usually physically separated but so too are the technologies they use.


External online efforts – media planning, buying, ad serving, email marketing, mobile, search and analytics – are all operating independently from site-side efforts –  like landing page optimization, content management, eCRM, site analytics. 


First, let’s gain a little perspective here.  Ted is from [X+1].  Their whole gig is about optimizing conversions and customer penetration within a site.  Furthermore, they also tout their skills at connecting these two silos together.  Their Media+1 and Site+1 products connect Ad Serving and Site-Side optimization together like an adhesive to offer marketers a cohesive view from the external efforts through to the internal efforts.


I am not going to dive into those two products here much.  Media+1 is basically the former Poindexter ad server, a tier-two player with a couple of marquee clients that has been folded into their primary core competency which is what the Site+1 product is all about.  The rebranding of the company from Poindexter to [x+1] has enabled them to carve this great niche in the industry and now they partner with tier-1 ad servers like DoubleClick when strong ad serving is required or when major clients are on the table.


Anyway, I know I bitch and moan when people get on iMediaConnection and self-promote, so I can’t criticize ted here for not mentioning [x+1], but I like it when people also give us some direction.  In other words my narrow rules say its okay to mention your company so long as you do it in context with other companies as well.  Serve as a resource and not a self-promotional artist.  In this case, however, maybe Ted didn’t feel he could come up with anyone else that could do it like [x+1] J


One thing that comes to mind, however, when I read his characterization of the outward and inward marketing silos is how the head of marketing in those organizations must be failing.  Online is a component of marketing.  If the org is big enough to have a head of interactive – s/he is failing.  If it is not that big and it has a head of marketing alone, then s/he must be failing.  I say this because in this day and age there are too many different ways to pull these two efforts together and if they are not talking to each other the problems are obvious, the tension will be thick as butter and the questions that can’t be answered about the performance of the organization will be more significant than the performance that can be measured.  Intelligence will recognize that there is a major problem.  So I wonder either, (a) if Ted has really screwed-up clients or (b) he is using his worst clients as examples in his articles or, (c) the type of opportunities that I am encountering represent more of what is out there than what is not.


Is it really that screwed up on the back end of the curve?


External online marketing needs to tag web sites and calculate data.  So internal marketing has to get curious about what is going on.  Internal marketing is using analytics to track internal behavioral and CMS to maximize conversions.  A Director-level person who oversees these two units has to be gathering data from both groups and must begin to get curious about the relationships between the two – this would represent common sense intelligence.  If not, then stupid people are running a lot of marketing organizations.  Maybe that is a truth.  But I am meeting a lot of intelligent people.  I work on the front of the curve too … so maybe I work with smarter people … but I think our industry as a whole is comprised of people on the top and front-end of the curve.  I think that a lot of people struggle with these problems, but I also think that the technologies are in place or are being put in place to take maximize.  As always, time is the limited resource.


Anyway, placing these two efforts together is just common sense.  This is why behavioral targeting has become so popular.  This is why lead generation advertising is becoming so popular.  This is why landing-page A/B testing with companies like CoreMetrics is gaining so much attention.  None of these initiatives can happen without internal marketing being at least engaged.


First party ad serving requires the marriage of internal and external marketing.  Maybe that is part of what is so unique about where my projects have taken me.  I sit in meetings with people who know each other, and look at each other and we work together to figure out ownership.  eCRM or site-side analytics will set first party cookies for external marketing to target with the ad server.  Media Planning and buying will set strategy based on the customer profiles that internal marketing establishes.  Creative is built accordingly.  Ad serving targets new and existing customers in real-time.  Leads and prospects and existing customers are all driven back to the site(s).  Internal web site management receives users and pushes them into different directions based on cookie variables and eCRM records transactional patterns while site analytics records behavioral patterns and sets new cookies for future targeting.  New customer profiles are created and new segments are built for future re-targeting and the cycle continues.  With first party ad serving and the marriage of first party ad serving and site side analytics, you have the integration of internal and external marketing within an advertiser.  Everyone works together with a product like DirectServe™ and WebSideStory.


But there are other ways to do this too.  If internal and external are coordinated by a single leadership role, they should be made aware of the benefits of each other’s efforts.  And in my experience they usually are.  Ted could have shed some light on how different technologies can be used to do this in his article, because I think he did a good job at challenging us to question whether our organizations are functioning properly or not.  If you are falling prey to the problems ted describes, what do you do about it?  I guess you can call Ted.  But first you should have some idea as to how you should diagnose your problems.  Then you should have some directive as to who you should call, in addition to Ted, for some insight.  You can’t get all of that from one article I know.  But I’ve given you some thoughts.


Evaluate your chain of command.  If you are the head of the organization, challenge your people to construct an information flow chart to see what they each can capture and then line the two groups up and see where they connect.  Ultimately this is about the acquisition of new leads, conversions and the growth of customers. 


Your external marketing team needs to be empowered to attack the market with tools that will enable them to generate new leads and re-target existing customers simultaneously, since both will exist within any pool (website) upon which they advertise. 


Internal marketing needs to have the capacity to capture both audiences when they come in, continue the messaging strategy, leverage CMS to position the appropriate content and leverage the knowledge gained by the ad serving process (what worked and what did not work) to maximize the conversion rates on prospects and the recurring revenue opportunities on existing customers. 


Finally internal marketing needs to convert the knowledge it gains through its conversion processes into media decision-making recommendations for external marketing so that the cycle can continue specifically with regard to re-targeting existing customers.


Reactionary with insight

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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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Get More with No-Cost Ad Serving, Maybe for Publishers

Well you knew I would be coming at this one.  Bennett Zucker’s February 16th, 2007 Get More with No-Cost Ad Serving article in iMediaConnection throws out the notion that the value of ad servers is fading out of existence.  While Bennett fails to be explicit about whether he is specifically looking at publisher ad servers or advertiser ad servers, let’s examine both from the perspective he presents.


 


Bennett says: “no-fee ad serving can bring about technological innovation, and better, cheaper, faster ways of getting things done online.”  True, ad serving has become an increasingly commoditized service.  Zedo and Mediaplex are the two biggest drives of this trend.  Zedo’s approach to giving away three-months of free ad serving and then converting customers to paying clients results in very cheap ad serving.  And Mediaplex is ‘buying’ business aggressively in an attempt to capture market share from DoubleClick and Atlas.  It is not uncommon to see $0.05 or $0.04 CPM rates from either provider for tiered impression volumes in excess of 100M/mos.  I’ve seen Mediaplex go as low at $0.035.  Hard to compete with.


 


Zedo is easier to compete with.  They are not certified to serve on as many sites, their customer service is not rated that high and their tool is buggy.  Mediaplex has its issues too.  I’ve gone into the competitive features of different ad servers in the past in my “How to pick an ad server series:”


 


1.      The Ad Server’s Point of View – Selling to the Advertiser and Cost


2.      How to Pick an Ad Server – Part II Interface Evaluation


3.      How to Pick an Ad Server – Part III Rich Media, Targeting & Optimization


4.      How to Pick an Ad Server – Part IV Price


5.      How to Pick an Ad Server – Part V Training


6.      How to Pick an Ad Server – Part VI Customer Support & Implementation


 


“Today we assume, for example, that it costs nothing in bandwidth or storage or processing power to add new subscribers and web pages. But this notion hasn’t been widely applied yet in the realm of ad serving.”  Actually Bennett, this is false.  With ever-increasing files sizes, rich media and video this is the one thing that is keeping CPMs from falling lower and, in fact, this is what is starting to drive CPMs back up.  Bandwidth is a fixed cost for an ad server.  Granted the more bandwidth you require the better your rate, but a pipe is a pipe and you pay for the bandwidth in chunks no matter what you push through it.  The operating model of an ad server is based on what sells and most ad servers have a minimum CPM that they need to cover to break-even.  This number increases as the files sizes creep up.  Video, especially, introduces a whole new level of bandwidth requirements like rich media.  I know people paying $4 CPMs with Eyeblaster if you can believe that!  Granted, they’re getting hosed.


 


Publisher ad servers have an interesting situation to consider, and the Google proposition is one that is knocking at their door.  If Google is going to offer free ad serving in exchange for joining the AdSense network, then you do have a problem for the ad servers.  This may be a very enticing offer to a publisher.  Eliminate the $0.08 DFP charge and that could be worth $100K/mos or more to the publisher’s operation.  It could be worth a lot more if they’re a large web site.


 


So how do advertiser ad servers stay in the game?  For one thing, what are ad servers really all about?  Is it posting ads, rotating, optimization and selection logic?  Really?  Come-on.  There is a reason why there are out-of-the-box ad servers like Ad Juggler and freeware php-Ads-new.  Okay, I think of them on the same level, you may not.  Because it’s not hard to upload ads to a server and select creative and post them.  Adteractive runs over 1 billion ads a month on a home-grown system.  All you need is scalability.  Servers.  Co-location helps so that you have the security of not worrying about going down regionally and you have the load-balancing geographically and potentially internationally.  Those are only subtle differences between the major ad servers and the tier-three players. 


 


Self-managed out-of-the-box ad servers can’t get certified on the Yahoo!, AOL and MSN’s of the world because of reasons like that.  So if you are using those solutions, you’re out of luck there.  But that is not necessarily an issue for all advertisers.


 


Ad servers for advertisers are in the game for log processing and reporting.  That is the meat of the game.  The ability to process 70-100 million logs per ad served and return impressions, clicks, post-click events per site, site-section and placement is the heart of what ad servers do.  Taken further, the better ad servers offer robust reporting and analytics that enable advertisers to cross-dissect the data to make empowering decisions.  This is where some of the real differentiation comes into play.


 


A second place is integration.  Ad servers are starting to step up and recognize that 2007 is about consolidated reporting.  Drawing together disparate data sources into the dashboard.  Blackfoot has been touting this for 2 years.  David Smith has been challenging the industry for over a year to bring this to light.  Ad servers are slowly coming to recognize that this is where they need to be. 


 


TruEffect began a project with mOne a year ago to build a consolidated report that brought together the search, email, rich media and ad serving data under one roof, within Microsoft Excel.  Nothing entirely different from what some of the other ad servers are capable of doing accept for the fact that it is active, live data that is manipulatable within a Microsoft Excel environment, instead of within a Web-based application and downloadable as .csv files.


 


Now I know first-hand that publishers are dissatisfied with their publisher ad serving solutions.  See my post: Banner Ads on Google.  And I know that there really is not a comprehensive solution out there that combines inventory management, sales management, forecasting (the wholly grail) and campaign management.  So maybe Bennett can shed some light on that in a follow-up article or perhaps Brad Beren’s can find someone to write a non-self-promoting article on the state of affairs of the publisher ad serving space.  But for now, the largest pubs out there are using a combination of home grown systems or a combination of DPF plus site-side analytics plus proprietary tools plus a room full of analysts; and all of them are blind more than just a couple of weeks out in terms of available inventory.  Crack that code and you get an award.  And a job … probably from Google.


 


Differentiation is key in every space, no doubt Bennett.  And the key is to make those differentiations known in the industry.  DoubleClick is asleep at the wheel.  Atlas is focused on their purchase of Accipiter and has let their client services slip so badly that their clients are just crying for someone to come and take them away (oh Calgon!).  Mediaplex is aggressive out there, no doubt.  But all they have to offer is a shelf full of the features that you should already expect from an ad server and a price that is intended to undercut DC and Atlas.


 


And now, the plug J … TruEffect has all the features, and yes, we’re competing on the price points too.  But we built the ad server within Microsoft Excel, TruAdvertiser.xls.  See Maximize your Ad Traffickers’ Value, Re-Evaluate Their Time for a deep-dive into the product with screen shots and all that good stuff.  I know, I named the post poorly, but there is a lot of meat in that one.


 


Anyway, TruAdvertiser.xls was built around the workflow of an agency or advertiser.  It integrates with other aspects of the business operation, leveraging all of Microsoft Office.  All aspects of the media planning, ad serving and reporting is conducted in Microsoft Excel and other disparate sources of data can easily be pulled in to create dashboard-like reports.  Data can be pushed out to accounting systems or other tools like internal business intelligence reporting tools.  There is not a whole lot that can’t be done with some specialize work.  And we do it everyday with our clients.  Okay, enough … that wasn’t bad (166 words).


 


So Bennett Zucker wrote us another good article.  And from the publisher ad serving perspective I think he is spot-on.  Commoditized pricing is an indication that there is little differentiation in the space.  If it is just about price, the players are driving head-first into the ground.  If someone does not crack the forecasting code it will remain a one-way ticket.  Google’s attempt to throw their hat into the game with their free publisher ad server for AdSense doesn’t even bother to take a swing at it.  My conversations with them last year yielded that they too didn’t have that problem solved.  So if you want to win, and maybe I can help you here, launch a publisher ad server with forecasting that can look out past 2-3 weeks with a degree of accuracy that can be leveraged for selling.  That is the golden egg.  In terms of advertiser ad servers, it’s not about features, everyone has them and that is why the prices have fallen.  Rich media, video and larger file sizes will drive the CPMs back up.  Integration and consolidated reporting will keep the leaders alive if they don’t stay asleep at the wheel.


 


Reactionary with Insight

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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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This I believe

So for several months now I have been closely watching the industry, reading articles, PR releases, product releases, financial releases and generally paying attention.  I have been taking bits and pieces of what I care about and have been making comments and providing what I believe has been an insightful perspective on how technology can be better leveraged to improve how we advertise online.


 


I have looked at the ad servers, the networks, the lead generation tools.  I have examined the search engines, the publisher tools and the creative formats and provided you with feedback on what other reliable people have had to say.


 


And I have discussed ad agencies, their workflow, the media buying process and the tools that people use to do their jobs, however inefficiently I may believe that to be.


 


Here is my position.


 


The agencies have engaged the interactive medium completely.  Estimates for 2007 are that between 12 ½ and 20% of advertising budgets will go towards new media.  This is no longer the edgy side-project.  Engagement with technology is here.  But it is about refinement. 


 


Search is essential but everyone is coming to recognize that there is something wrong with the model.  It is extremely time-intensive and expensive to manage.  Furthermore the ROI metrics seem to slip the longer you run campaigns.  As I have said in the past, a tipping point is coming. 


 


Networks have been doing their thing the same way with some minor tweaks for a while now and people are demanding more disclosure.  Tolerance for media showing up on inappropriate sites is very low, accountability is high and additional capabilities like behavioral targeting has become an expectation.


 


That brings me to behavioral targeting – a very common topic on this blog.  I have ripped this topic up and down.  My intent has been to redefine this concept as event-based targeting and to justify that there is little about behaviors actually associated with it at all.  Just because someone took a navigation path, or saw a page means little about their behavior, the predictability of their behavior or their preferences.  All we know is something that happened.  Historical targeting is a better description but I have used event-based targeting over the last couple of months.


 


I have never tried to minimize the value of BT, only put it into it rightful place as a solid prospecting and direct response advertising mechanism.  BT does not represent the best means to capturing known individuals, in fact, it does not have the capacity to associate with knowledge about people at all.  Only with events.  But I believe that BT should be part of a comprehensive campaign.


 


People have approached me both on and off this blog about my position towards BT and some of the networks, but I think its because they have been defensive and protective of their positions as representatives of these companies.  Others have engaged me – usually advertisers, agency representatives or others who see that the evolution of practice is inevitable and being on the adaptive edge of the curve is better than the laggards edge.


 


I have also spent a lot of time plugging a concept called first party ad serving.  Forgive me for the plugs.  Obviously as a member of TruEffect I have a lot of passion for what we do here.  But I also spend a lot of time looking for other technologies that can rival or at least coexist, companion or compliment what we are doing here.


 


The patent-pending DirectServe™ Technology that TruEffect has brought to the market represents the next generation of ad serving.  It leverages the knowledge that an advertiser holds about its customers, registrants or users to re-target through ad campaigns.  This is not a replacement for other technologies out there – I have said that before as well – but a great new way of doing it.  An addition to a comprehensive advertising strategy.


 


First party ad serving is about customer re-targeting.  BT is about event-based targeting, best applied when trying to capture unknown individuals.  One is for bringing in new business; one is about farming and growing existing business.  There is no point is re-prospecting existing customers while advertising online.  DirectServe™ takes care of that.  BT leverages previous events so that you can increase the likelihood of putting the right message in front of the right person at the right time based on historical events.  DirectServe™ puts the right message in front of the right person based on known customer segmentation models, knowledge already held about customers.  This a potential marriage.


 


Now BT is largely touted by networks, so there is a limitation as to how you can use it.  I talk about TACODA a lot – which I think Dave Morgan has not be thrilled about – but its because they have been the leader in the space.  I have also talked about Advertising.com and Blue Streak and Tribal and others as well.  But ad servers offer BT too.  DoubleClick’s Boomerang does it.  TruEffect does it.  And that extends beyond networks.


 


I also talk about integration.  Agencies are not on this trail so much as advertisers.  Well, some agencies are but they are the minority.  I have strong opinions about this because I feel that they pieces of the puzzle are all here now for us to put together a great picture of our online marketing so that we can make better informed decisions about our web site compositions, product placements, online advertising and budget allocations.  But nobody has fully engaged yet.  There are leaders that are putting the pieces together, but I am advocating the full-monty and that is what you read about on this blog.


 


Tying it all together will enable an advertiser to make the best possible decisions regarding allocation of online media spend.  It will promote the best utilization of technology, improve product placement on web sites, increase the value of existing customers, the initial value of new customers and enhance the likelihood of increasing the utilization of interactive media as a channel for marketing.


 


See my ten-step recipe for full-integration of all the technology pieces of an online advertising campaign.


 


First let me redefine that a third party cookie is a vendor’s cookie and a first party cookie is an advertiser’s cookie.  Here is the recipe.

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Ten Step Recipe for a Fully-Integrated Online Marketing Initiative

In my next post, This I believe, I state my position on agencies, networks, ad servers, writers and pretty much all things online advertising related.  In the end I offer up a reciper for putting together all of the technologies into a holistic, comprehensive marketing initiative.  Here it is.

First let me redefine that a third party cookie is a vendor’s cookie and a first party cookie is an advertiser’s cookie.  Here is the recipe:


 


(1)            Starting with the tagging of a web site so that cookies can be set (first party cookies of course) when someone is on the site. 


(2)            Then add in Ad serving – first party ad serving (like the patent-pending DirectServe™) to promote products or services on the web. 


(3)            Mix in the search advertising and be sure to use the ad server’s first party cookie and leverage a redirect so that the search term can be embedded into the cookie so that when the user lands on the advertiser’s web page that search term is associated with that user.


(4)            Deploy customer re-targeting advertising whereby you leverage customer segments from the eCRM database to recognize and distinguish customers through ad campaigns with specific banner advertisements, rich media and video.


(5)            Deploy BT for anyone that visits the web site directly and cookie that user with a first-party cookie so that the re-targeting mechanism can work when they encounter that individual online (on a network or web site).


(6)            Engage with a site-side analytics provider that will use a first party deployment – like WebSideStory – and take full advantage of tracking anonymous user behavior across your web site.  Track all navigation patterns, entrance and exist points, product position preferences, sales cycles, etc.


(7)            Leverage site-side analytics to write the first party cookie and segment the cookie value based on user preferences in association with CRM data.


(8)            Feed the customer preference cookie value to generate the customer segments and associate the customer segments with creative target groups that the ad server will serve in the re-target campaigns (back to #4)


(9)            Have the DirectServe™ write to the cookie during the ad serving process the details of the ad serving history to the cookie so that when a prospect of customer comes to the site, the site-side analytics software can internalize all of the external activity and use it for further analysis on how someone became a customer or how returning customers were reacquired.  First party ad serving will give site-side analytics outside perspective of web marketing.


(10)       Complete the circle by leveraging the holistic view by analyzing the reports on how you acquire customers through BT, Search and Banner advertising, how you re-acquire existing customers through DirectServe™ first party ad serving and how both types interact with your site using site-side analytics.  Determine which messaging strategies, campaign combinations of banners and placements, search engines and terms and which technologies are delivering the greatest source of new customer and returning customer yield and make future media buying decisions based on that analysis.

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Disintermediating Ad Exchanges, Publisher Ad Auctions

On January 27th, Brad Berens wrote in iMediaConnection about Right Media Exchange’s new Right Media Direct in his article, Right Media Direct Ad Exchange Launches.  


 


“While the larger Right Media Exchange boasts 50 ad networks, Right Media Direct has nine — Accelerator, Active Response Group (ARG), Adtegrity, Banner Connect, CPX Interactive, Directa Network, Oridian, Remix Media and Rydium — that compete for a publisher’s inventory in a real time auction” – Brad Beren, iMediaConnection


 


The short-version of this is that Right Media is empowering advertisers with the ability to buy all of a publisher’s inventory that is available from all of the participating networks in Right Media Direct as opposed to just the inventory available through one network, as with Right Media’s traditional auction-based system.  This becomes a lot more like a direct-selling model for publishers and advertisers except for there being two intermediary players, the networks who take their cut and then Right Media who takes their 7.5% piece.


 


So why don’t publishers bypass the networks and just dump their inventory into Right Media directly?  Well a lot of them do.  But what about publisher’s whose inventory is landing there through a network, will they ever know about it?  Probably not.  At least not for a while.  The inventory that they give to the networks that the networks will give to the auction will be chopped up so badly that the pubs will see such small dollars in return that they probably won’t even look into it.


 


But it doesn’t have to be that way.  And there could be more revenue there to be had.


 


“Greg Stuart, chief executive of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, said he could not comment directly on Right Media Exchange, but said the notion of an online ad exchange is not new.” – C|Net’s Right Media Launches Online Ad Auction.  But there are some inherent differences here.


 


Right Media is a mediated exchange between publishers and advertisers.  Forget about the networks but the publishers that are participating directly are of greater interest.  Personally, I think that the major publishers whose inventory that is landing on Right Media will become aware of the two-player intermediaries and will cut the networks out and go to Right Media directly.  Eventually.  Auction-buying is getting more popular and while networks is a great why to dump excess inventory, advertisers are also looking at auctions now too as better inventory is starting to show up there. 


 


Auction-revenue represents greater potential to publishers if they go direct.  Obvious-man.  But then this is not just an auction system.  Right Media is putting the buyer and seller together.  Or are they?  Buyer and seller never meet.  Right Media is in the middle.  So I guess there is a final step missing here.  Buyer and seller come to RightMedia and conduct a transaction.  Only those publishers that use Right Media will be available to advertisers that come to Right Media.


 


What if you eliminate the middle man.  How do you make it so that any publisher can reach any advertiser and vice versa? 


 


What if you could do it on any web site directly?  What if you could log in to a publisher’s site and participate in an auction and buy their inventory that way.  Set a max, your budget, your ad specs and let the auction run.  The publisher could input their available inventory and whatever they don’t sell directly would run through their auction-tool. 


 


What am I getting at?  Publisher-direct auctions.


 


Obviously some third-party audit would need to come into play here to verify the validity of the tool (think I/Pro or Neilsen), but how cool would that be.  Forget the auction network model which is limited by those sites or networks of sites that participate.


 


Yahoo!, which has a minority stake in Right Media has its auction-based search advertising model on its search engine.  Sponsored Search is an auction-based pricing model.  You can go in and do the same thing with search as you can do with Right Media – buy search on an auction system.  But you can only buy on Yahoo!.  You can only by on Google through Adwords.  Same with MSN through AdCenter.  And so on.


 


In the past I have talked about LookSmart’s AdCenter which will allow a publisher to take on the search CPC sale directly, so that they can step out from under a network.  This allows for the capability to sell direct to advertiser with an auction system.  Advertisers can go to ASK.com directly and buy contextual search without having to go through a network.  Imagine being able to do the same with The Wall Street Journal, WebMD or C|Net.  Go and login to an auction tool, set you min/max, your budget and keywords and let it run. 


 


So there is an example of a publisher auction selling tool for search.


 


LookSmart has it for search.  I also think Quigo does too.  You would have to check it out because their Web site does not give much information.


 


Back to banner advertising.  Challenge to the industry: Offer publishers an auction tool to sell their own remnant space.  Maybe LookSmart’s tool could be tweaked to do this.  Maybe one of the ad servers can be enhanced to do this.  Maybe they need to buy an auction tool and integrate it to bring this capability to publishers.  But it would seem to me that if publishers could wrap this in, advertisers would jump all over it.  Eliminate the middle men and publishers can capture more revenue, undercut the current cost models and advertisers can take control over exactly where their ads are running. 


 


Your thoughts?


 


Reactionary with Insight. 

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When Will We Deliver On The Promise, Deliverying the Right Ad At the Right Time


In MediaPost’s Online Spin, Dave Morgan wrote When Will We Deliver On The Promise?.  He discussed a question that he received while sitting on a panel at the  DLD (Digital, Life, Design) conference in Munich. 



Walt Mossberg, personal technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal wanted to know: “When will the online advertising industry actually deliver on its outstanding promise of the last decade to present the right ad to the right person at the right time? When will we finally deliver a consumer experience where the vast majority of ads that we deliver are meaningful, and not junk and clutter on Web pages?”


Dave’s observation was that “the online ad industry is always touting its extraordinary technical capabilities to target relevant ads … [but] we are still giving consumers a terrible experience when it comes to the vast majority of ads that we place on their Web pages.”



Dave’s article argued the evolution of the industry and compared it to the evolution of print and broadcast.  But what he failed to do was point out the capabilities in the industry that do deliver on the promise of delivering the right ad to the right person at the right time.  As the CEO of TACODA, I was surprised not to hear him plug it, but then again his insight expands beyond self-promotion and so it was healthy to see him stay on topic.  Regardless, here is the response that I posted on his blog:

Solid arguments Dave, and a very positive outlook. I think to see the conformity trend makes a lot of sense. But I also think that repurposing existing technologies presents the opportunity to put the right ad in front of the right person now. I don’t know how you answered Walk Mossberg’s question, but he is not alone in that inquiry. It is a popular question and one that I know TACODA aims to answer with BT. Putting the right ad in front of the right person at the right time is the golden nugget. Knowing how to recognize the right person is the major task. BT does it with the prospecting of anonymous individuals as we know. Customer re-targeting can establish the same capability through first party ad serving as I have argued in the past. Together these two technologies can enable an advertiser to put the right message in front of prospects and customers while advertising on the web in real-time. The composition of the advertising audience can be measured so that customers no longer get re-prospected with promotional messages and customers get driven towward recurring revenue-minded actions. Putting the right message in front of the right person at the right time makes the advertising relevant.

Reactionary with Insight.

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Becoming an Ad-Server Power User

Great stuff Tom Hespos.  Become an Ad-Serving Power User does a great job in iMediaConnection today of painting an accurate picture of how few agencies take full advantage of their ad serving technologies.


Tom focused on the training aspects of using your ad server.  “All it takes is a minimal investment of time and perhaps some cash. Even if your ad management contract calls for some nominal fee for planners to attend advanced training sessions, the expense in time and money is well worth it.”


Check out How to Pick an Ad Server – Part V: Training.  In this post I talked about finding out training within a ‘sandbox’ verses training on your actual campaigns a data.  There is something inherently more interesting about something that is relevant.  When going through training, such as a Webex.  It is hard to sit through imaginary data and think about how you will have to go back and do everything you are watching all over again on your own.  Elementary training is one thing.  But advanced training is something else.  If you are going to sit through training – especially is you are going to get charged for training – you should be getting more out of it than just knowledge.  You should be getting accomplishment.


“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.”  This was a big point that I was making in the post I referenced above.  The “How to Pick and Ad Server…” series of posts that this comes from looks at ad server selection from a number of angles: (1) Evaluating the Interface, (2) Rich Media, Targeting and Optimization, (3) Price, (4) Training, and (5) Customer Service and Support. 


Your training experience should offer you the opportunity to include the setting up of actual campaigns.  The relevant experience will stick with you while simultaneously accomplish something for you.  You can go farther in terms of applying more aspects of the technology when you are doing so with real-world clients.  Even if there are features that you would not be using with a client, you can set them up in training and then turn them off afterward.  The experience of training with a real client will stick with you.


Furthermore, if you are training on an actual campaign, it has to be done differently then in a presentation format.  Webex is a great tool as it can go both ways.  For example, a presenter can show you how to do something with a sandbox environment and then give you control and have you do it with one of your campaigns while they watch.  We do that with our clients, pass control of Webex back and forth.  That way we can see what clients are doing and guide them through the process.  Learning by doing rather than learning by watching.  Teach a man or woman to fish right?


Reactionary with Insight

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Car Buying Experience. Lost DirectServe Opportunity Where SmartBanners Could Hammer Home Offers to a Shopper Anywhere Online

So I have gone from being a promoter of online advertising technology to a target over the last week.  For the first time that I can recall in a long time, I succumbed to most of the applications in use meant to drive me towards specific destinations and specific actions and it all came up short.  But what I did find were great opportunities for improvement!


 


I have been shopping for a new car.  Dreadful experience that it is, I am one of those people who labors over it.  The problem is that I started off not knowing what kind of car to get.  My wife wants a Prius, only she’s not the one who has the drive it and after the last month of back-to-back blizzards in Denver I need something that can actually get me to work.  I am not an ignoramous, I am not looking for a gas-guzzling, high emissions-producing smog machine, but an AWD that can get through the crud and have some power to get up the mountains would be nice.  EPA in the 20s/30s.  So the crossover class seems to be my style.  Anyway, I went on the usual sites looking at cars – MSN, Edmunds, Cars.com, etc.  I was having trouble finding something I liked when I saw an ad for a cool looking car and clicked on it.  I went to the manufacturer’s site and read about the offer that had lured me in and even filled out a form to have a dealer or two contact me. 


 


So there it is, right there!  I joined a CRM system.  The dealer contacted me and yet had no idea how I had become a lead.  What had been the process. Didn’t know what site I had come from or what offer I had seen.  Or perhaps they did know but didn’t want to lead off with a good deal.


 


Anyway many of us know the statistics.  People start looking at cars and all of a sudden their surfing habits go hog-wild online as they research the heck out of a vehicle and then they show up in a show room to buy.  Needless-to-say that was not the last time that I went online to look at cars.  In fact I am two weeks into the process and I am still online looking at cars and am still kind of looking at other cars to make sure this is the one I want.  Each time I type in that crossover on one of those sites, an ad for the lease or finance offer shows up on the page, sometime something else shows up but they usually railroad it.


 


What am I getting at here?  I have been contacted by more than one dealership.  I have tested driven the car at two locations.  I am in a database (presumably) at both locations and I am in a database at the manufacturer.  I surf online and research that car along with others and occasionally see ads for that car or other cars from that dealer.  Where is the behavioral targeting?!?!  Where is the customer re-targeting??  They should know who I am and know things about me!  I’ve been back to the manufacturers site several times, the dealer’s site even more often looking at the inventory.  Nobody knows it’s me!!


 


Here is the perfect opportunity for a dealership to recognize that the reality is I am not done shopping online.  They should be keen to the likelihood that I am also probably going to be talking to other car manufacturers (I have told them as much).  Since the manufacturer who first secured me as a lead in the first place through advertising still has my information they should have, and could, have cookied me.  They could be targeting me in the future each time they encounter me and be ‘warming’ me up for the dealer.  The dealer could be enhancing my record with the manufacturer so that my customer profile is getting expanded for targeting.


 


Back to DirectServe – first party ad serving.  The manufacturer could be recognizing me on MSN when they advertise and could be showing me ads for the car I am tagged on whenever it’s their turn to show an ad.  I don’t mean when I research the crossover, I mean at any point that they may advertise.  How about when I look at a different car?  I can be recognized, distinguished and messaged to accordingly.  They can hit me with that crossover on Edmunds even though I had been researching it on Cars.com.  Once they have me tagged, they can focus on that car wherever they encounter me. 


 


If I see relevant ads while I continue to do my research it hammers home my interest in the crossover I am looking at even if I am playing around with other types of cars.  The messaging capability is powerful.


 


Here is another technology to know about.  TruEffect also has TruBanners.  These Smart Banners enable an advertiser to dynamically change the content of their advertisements on the fly without having to rotate ads or change out creative.  So an advertiser can run one creative and have it change the offer or dealership name depending on some targeting criteria such as geographic location or cookie value.  Think about that!  If the user carries a cookie that is associated with a specific dealer and a specific type of car and that cookie is also associated with a profile that is anonymously known as a segment associated with having had visited a dealership and test-driven a vehicle, than a very specific financing offer can be displayed in the ad that someone who does not fall into that category would not see. 


 


Wait, that was a really long sentence.  Try that again.  The banner can have dynamic content.  The banner can target an offer based on the cookie value of the browser.  If I am cookied as the guy interested in the Crossover in Denver who has test-driven with a dealer, I can see ads with lease offers for that dealer.  Now that is behavioral targeting, customer re-targeting and smart advertising all rolled-up into the next generation of online advertising.


 


Shame on the manufacturer who has paid for the online advertising, charged back the advertising to both dealerships; and shame on the dealerships who have paid for the leads.  In the end I will buy the car from the lowest bidder and may even buy it from a dealer from outside the region as I don’t care where it comes from now that I have seen it, driven it and priced it.  I never developed a relationship with anyone because nobody ever gave me a reason to do so.  None of my information ever got leveraged from my preferred way of shopping. 


 


The dealerships are not demanding better lead management capabilities from the manufacturers and the manufacturers are clearly not demanding better lead management from the dealerships.  They don’t communicate and are not working together to close the deals and move the inventory effectively.  In the end, I am a loosely moving buyer that is not being guided through a process that they control.  And the could have a great deal of control over that process.


 


Reactionary with Insight.

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