Evolution of Interactive Targeting

It may seem odd to call the changes that have been occurring with interactive targeting an “evolution” considering the basic premise has only been around for approximately 15 years.  But in the online world if you are even a year behind it can be equal to five years.  So yes, it’s an evolution that we have to constantly stay on top of.   Initially our best targeting options were limited to geography, interests and demographics.  We hoped to reach our targets where we thought they were surfing, but it was sort of like throwing a dart with a blindfold on.  But the average click-through rate was around 3% so the pressure was off.

Then somewhere around 2004 the concept of user generated content erupted and so did the number of websites.   Technology needed to catch up so that advertisers could target their potential consumers in the right place at the right time.  We were introduced to terms such as “behavioral targeting” and, more recently, “retargeting. “

As a refresher, behavioral targeting is the technology that publishers and advertisers use to target consumers based on previous website and search usage.  Online usage is gathered to create a “profile” and publishers can use this data to create audience segments based on visitors that have similar profiles.  Advertisers then can target these consumers with their online advertising in hopes that they will have a higher propensity to be interested in or to buy their product.

Retargeting takes it even further by keeping track of (or “cookie-ing”) people who visit a site and then using online ads to target them when they are on other sites.  In theory, this technology is supposed to remind the consumer that they were on Website X once and they should really go back and finish their transaction.  If you pay attention to online advertising, there are companies who do this well and there are some who do it poorly.

Most recently a new technology has evolved which actually marries the basic premise behind direct mail (gasp!) with the current online targeting.  Some companies call it “IP targeting” and others call it “direct ad display.”  Regardless of the name, it has potential to be an even more accurate targeting model for advertisers to reach their potential customers online.  This model combines IP technology and geo-targeting to build an online version of a direct media list.  When that is done, publishers can target down to the zip+4 level and then create models of how these users are consuming the internet.  Does that sound Big Brother-ish?  Yes, but it is done anonymously – no personal information is ever identified.

The payoff on the constant state of change in this category is higher conversion – however the advertiser may measure that.  Each change that we have seen does help increase CTRs, time spent on site, bounce rates and higher conversion rates.  In the meantime, we will be keeping our eye on this new targeting option and will be waiting for the next greatest technology to emerge.