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Behavioral Targeting Best Practices

Marla R. Schimke
Behavioral Targeting Best Practices Marla R. Schimke

When behavioral targeting first launched a few years ago, everyone was excited about the incredible possibilities that it offered to advertisers. Pundits endlessly spun out scenarios for advertising tailored to an individual's specific interests. Then the more tactical questions started to arrive: Does it work? How is it bought and sold? What is the scale?

If the tremendous growth in behavioral targeting over the past year and the predictions for 2006 spending are any indication, these questions have largely been answered. With those operational issues resolved, it is time to turn some marketing attention once again to the more advanced possibilities that behavioral targeting holds for marketing and answer this question:

How do I use behavioral targeting to get the most ROI for my marketing campaigns?

One of the great advantages of behavioral targeting is that it enables marketers to consider multiple consumer behaviors when developing their advertising campaigns. Using behavioral targeting, marketers can modify their messages based on how consumer behaviors evolve over time.

That is to say, behavioral targeting can help move a consumer through the four key stages of the purchase decision cycle:

  1. Brand Awareness

  2. Message Association

  3. Brand Favorability

  4. Purchase Intent

To do this, advertising doesn't rely on the traditional "call to action." Rather, it matches the consumer's own decision-making pace by drawing the customer closer with a sequence of ad creatives that prompt successive mental commitments.

Let's take a look at two campaign examples to illustrate this.

Author Notes:
As Vice President of Corporate Marketing, Marla R. Schimke drives the brand and marketing communications strategy that has established Revenue Science as a leader in behavioral targeting. As an online media pioneer she brings a unique blend of technology and media experience to her role of communicating cutting edge solutions to business and consumer audiences. Prior to joining Revenue Science, Marla held executive marketing positions at Microsoft and several hi-tech media startup ventures. She has designed e-commerce solutions for leading Fortune 500 companies and launched leading brands that include a web product voted "Best Freeware" by PC Magazine. Marla is an active member of the American Marketing Association, Internet Advertising Bureau CMO and PR committees, and is on the board of advisors for Safecount.org.

Auto Creative #1: In this campaign for fictional auto manufacturer Jupiter Motors, the goal of the first ad is simple brand awareness. This ad would be served to a site's standard "In-Market Auto Buyer" audience, with the possibility of additional specific parameters -- such as income level and geographic location -- based on the overall brand demographic.

Important Note: This would all be done without using any personally identifiable information.

Auto Creative #2: Let's say that over the course of a week or so, a person's behaviors become more focused. Rather than reading just general auto articles, the person is reading only or mostly SUV articles. The brand message can now be refined to reflect this narrower interest by changing from "Jupiter is a great carmaker" to "Jupiter offers best-in-class SUVs."

While some advertisers might want to make the leap to promoting a specific SUV, the behavior does not support that... yet.

Auto Creative #3: Some additional time passes, and the consumer stops reading articles and starts researching a specific subset of SUVs-- perhaps smaller models with better mileage. Say that the person has now researched Jupiter's small SUV, the LS500. Now, the person's interest is specific enough for Jupiter to match it with a specific automobile. They are obviously very close to purchase decision, so the time is right to introduce a real call to action.

Here, a special financing deal on the model that the person is interested in is a timely message to translate intent to action.

One of the advantages of behavioral targeting is that the message can evolve over time. This allows advertisers to reframe a person's decision criteria in a way that contextual advertising traditionally cannot.

To show how this works, let's follow a credit card campaign.

Credit Card Creative #1: MegaCard (a fictional version, not the Austrian credit card) knows that lifestyle plays an integral part when consumers are considering what type of credit card makes the most sense for them. So, MegaCard introduces lifestyle as a decision criterion very soon in their advertising campaign.

After establishing some brand awareness, MegaCard can potentially alter the path of the decision-making process.


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