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Inside the Targeting Network

Inside the Targeting Network Brad Berens

TACODA recently announced the roll out of a new behavioral targeting (BT) network, TACODA Audience Networks. The network consists of 800 websites with a combined reach of 60 million users, says the company. TACODA's new product joins other behavioral solutions from ad network providers like 24/7 Real Media, Advertising.com, BURST! Media, Claria, WhenU and others. To get a better sense of what behavioral targeting networks provide for agencies, marketers and publishers, we spoke with TACODA president Curt Viebranz.

iMedia: More dollars are being directed to behaviorally-targeted campaigns. What’s the biggest challenge in responding to this growing interest?

Curt Viebranz: Simply put, it’s scale. Behavioral targeting has been used by virtually every major online advertiser and is now being offered by most major websites. We have lots of case studies showing the benefits of it. But what we’ve heard from advertisers is that they want an easy way to buy behaviorally-targeted audiences in volume. As Jeff Lanctot at Avenue A/Razorfish said recently when discussing the space, “2006 is the year [BT providers] need to step up in scale...." And that’s exactly what TACODA Audience Networks is all about, enabling cross-site behavioral targeting at a vast scale.

iMedia: There are lots of online ad networks, new ones popping up everyday. What makes TACODA’s new offering different for advertisers and their agencies?

Viebranz: TACODA Audience Networks is focused exclusively on delivering behaviorally targeted audiences-to-brand advertisers, using TACODA’s well established technology. By allowing advertisers to target their messages just to the people they want to reach across segments such as auto buyers, investors or business travelers, they gain greater efficiency and eliminate waste. 

Unlike most ‘blind’ networks, Audience Networks is fully transparent in that advertisers know where their ads can run. They are assured that their ads only run on quality sites, so they may engage their audience in what we call “clean, well lit environments.” TACODA Audience Networks offers significant reach -- currently about 45 percent of the U.S. internet audience. That used to be available on a behavioral basis only by patching together buys on multiple sites. Now, we vastly simplify online media buys by enabling agencies to reach targeted audiences at scale, with just a single buy.

iMedia: What incentives do publishers have to be part of the network?

Viebranz: Most important -- at least to most -- is that websites can make more money with TACODA than with other typical networks. We partner with websites with valuable audiences, and enable them to monetize both audience and undervalued pages. As part of our network, sites can participate in national buys they often would not get on their own. And by delivering quality, branded messages based on their visitors’ demonstrated interests, publishers are providing a better user experience because the ad content is more relevant to users.

iMedia: Aren’t you just buying sites’ unsold inventory?

Viebranz: No -- we’re not a broker network. TACODA does not simply buy remnant inventory cheaply and resell it as many networks do. TACODA’s partner websites make money on a revenue share basis, maximizing what they can make from their audience in undersold areas of their sites.

iMedia: What types of sites are best suited for the network?

Viebranz: We’ve partnered with traditional media companies and online-only or “new media” type sites.

In spite of all the talk about tight inventory, most websites make their money from a small percentage of their pages, and in fact, have a large number of pages from which they can’t get full value because they have no context. Because our network targets people and not pages, sites can now serve targeted ads to visitors anywhere on their site. Other sites with niche audiences or that may sell out most of their inventory have had no way to drive revenue from their sites’ visitors when they leave. But our network rewards their participation with compensation for matching audience data so they profit from their audience that way too.

iMedia: How does that work?

Viebranz: Websites participate in Audience Networks in one of two ways. Those interested in earning a new revenue stream provide aggregated, non-personally identifiable, anonymous audience data, enabling their site’s visitors to be served behaviorally-targeted messages while on other sites in the network. Those interested in increasing the yield on their site’s undersold page inventory serve behaviorally-targeted brand advertisements. All sites share in the revenue generated from serving targeted campaigns, whether actually serving ads or not.
iMedia: How can publishers be sure their audience data is not being harvested and reused?
Viebranz: TACODA does not use any data to target advertisements without the data provider being compensated. We work with sites to tag their pages so they know what information is used. We know which sites data comes from so we can pay them accordingly.

iMedia: I understand some advertisers have already used the network. What kind of campaigns have run and what where the results?

Viebranz: We’ve been running quite a number of campaigns and we’ve seen a very high renewal rate. Advertisers include Radisson, eBay, Delta, eDiets, Western Union and TGIFridays. Other advertisers running campaigns are in the wireless, technology, insurance, home furnishing and personal electronics sectors.

One agency running campaigns for several clients, told us they’ve been able to exceed their own campaign metrics on a continual basis, the renewal rate is one of the highest for their 2005 media buys based on our consistent performance and that purchasing media through TACODA is a more cost effective solution vs. site-specific buys.

iMedia: Will the network compete with the big portals which largely serve ads contextually?

Viebranz: We currently reach about 60 million unique users in the U.S. so buys can be done on TACODA Audience Networks as either a complement to portal buys or as an alternative. The big advantage we offer is that marketers can target ads directly to people, rather than simply buying a large number of pages.
iMedia: Are they any restrictions on the type of ads that advertisers can run across the network?

Viebranz: We do not accept tobacco, gambling, adult or generally offensive ads.

iMedia: How do you manage inventory and target cross-site with so many sites in the network?

Viebranz: Managing a large-scale behavioral targeting network is complex, requiring great people and proven technology. Our team is one of the most experienced in the industry. Our behavioral targeting technology has been battle tested across thousands of campaigns for several years. And we’ve leveraged best-of-breed solutions from BURST! Media and Akamai to help support the massive scale demanded by our customers.
iMedia: There is already controversy about user navigation being tracked. How do you think users will respond to a program that can track their behavior on one site and serve them an ad on another? How will the privacy watchdogs react?

Viebranz: This is definitely an issue the whole industry is facing. An important differentiator with what we do is that it involves no personally identifiable information -- we don’t know who anyone is. We simply aggregate behaviors into anonymous groups of people. Doing so allows us to target ads that are likely to be much more relevant to them than what they see now. Surveys have shown that consumers understand that advertising is part of the bargain for a web that’s primarily free. What they want is relevancy. But for those who don’t want to participate, we provide a simple opt-out mechanism, in conjunction with the NAI (Network Advertising Initiative).

Curt Viebranz joined TACODA Systems as President & Chief Operating Officer in April 2004. Mr. Viebranz is one of TACODA's original investors and has served on its Board of Directors since the company was founded in 2001.

World Cup video lessons

What can we learn from Nike, Samsung, adidas, and the other brands on this chart that found great success in producing World Cup-themed campaigns? Why did World Cup branded video experience such dramatic success, especially compared to other sporting events, like the Super Bowl or Winter Olympics?

First, it's important to note that brands advertising during the World Cup have a pre-existing advantage. The World Cup is a global event -- the biggest on the planet -- and revolves around the most popular sport in the world, soccer. That means there are multitudes of passionate and loyal fans hungry to consumer soccer-related content.

But these brands couldn't just rest on the promise of a huge, eager fan base. They used know-how from their other event experiences, like the Super Bowl, to make sure that viewers were as engaged as possible. In particular, they put the following three learnings into practice.

Long-form content keeps eyes on the screen

Brands did this by creating compelling stories that played out in long-form content that hooked viewers. The average length of the top 10 most-viewed tournament campaigns is 3:15; six of the top 10 World Cup campaigns had videos that were more than three minutes in length, which is a minute and half longer than the average Super Bowl campaign.

Emotion runs high on the pitch and online

World Cup brands also relied more than ever on emotional content to inspire viewership. Some ads told the stories of individuals, while others celebrated the spirit of competition and national pride. Banco de Chile's ad featuring the Chilean miners is a great example of how a brand played to emotion to drive viewership, conversation, and sharing.

Celebrities rule the day

Higher engagement scores are also due to the use of celebrities like popular soccer players Lionel Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar Jr., and Wayne Rooney, who have built-in fan bases that drive social media conversations and sharing. More than half of all World Cup campaigns used celebrities in their campaigns. Most of those famous faces were soccer stars, and, in most cases, brands used more than one to reach multiple audiences.

Mallory Russell is content editor at Visible Measures.

iMedia's Top 10 Brands in Video chart, powered by Visible Measures, focuses on aggregated brand view counts across related social video ad campaigns. Each brand and campaign is measured on a True Reach basis, which includes viewership of both brand-syndicated and audience-driven video clips. The data are compiled using the patented Visible Measures platform, a constantly growing repository of analytic data on close to 400 million videos tracked across more than 300 online video destinations.

Note: This analysis does not include Visible Measures' paid-placement (e.g., overlays; pre-, mid-, and post-roll) performance data or video views on private sites. This chart does not include movie trailers, video game campaigns, TV show, or media network promotions. View counts are incremental by month.

Learn more here.

A trusted advisor to companies of all sizes and a respected voice within the interactive media industry, Dr. Brad Berens has enjoyed a wide-ranging career that features storytelling as an organizing theme. These days, he divides his time among...

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