Aug 30, 2011 / by jay.krall

Hope Foster-Reyes, Amiable Interactive

Judging by the overwhelming response to our Future of Media event last week, communications professionals are actively preparing for the growing convergence of advertising, marketing and public relations, or paid, earned and owned media. While the interplay between earned and owned media is happening quickly, some PR pros I talk to have yet to really delve into the world of paid media, particularly the latest advancements in online advertising.

Behavioral targeting, and a subset of that discipline known as retargeting, are growing segments of online advertising. These tactics use Web visitor tracking technology, usually cookies, to display ads relevant to some previous action (like registering for an email newsletter or placing items in an online shopping cart) when visitors arrive at a site that belongs to an advertising network.

While only about a third of respondents to an eMarketer survey said they were using retargeting last year, and the Federal Trade Commission has recommended that Congress mandate that ad networks allow Web users to opt out of behavioral targeting through a browser-based “Do Not Track” mechanism, the technology continues to grow. Parks Associates forecasts nearly $5 billion will be spent annually on behaviorally targeted advertising by December, according to MediaPost’s Behavioral Insider blog.

I recently sat in on a great presentation by Hope Foster-Reyes of Amiable Interactive about trends in retargeting and behavioral targeting. A Google Adwords Certified Partner, Hope’s firm helps companies maximize their online ad spend. She took the time to answer a few questions about this quickly evolving space.

Jay: Do you think behavioral targeting is more effective than other methods of online advertising?

Hope: I think the most challenging aspect of any marketer’s job is comparing campaigns and channels and determining where to get the most “bang for your buck”. If we were to look at it from a purely direct-response return on investment (ROI) standpoint, behavioral campaigns garner higher click-throughs conversion rate, and return on advertising spend compared to traditional display. Benchmarks tend to place behavioral out on top over pure display campaigns, but below keyword-targeted pay-per-click search marketing campaigns.

But nowadays, of course, it’s more important to think of each new channel in terms of how it fits into your overall marketing mix–or “portfolio” if you will. In a “last-click” model, search marketing will almost always win out when monitoring ROI because it’s more of a demand fulfillment tool: making sure you’re right there front and center when your customer is ready to buy.

Jay: How does the cost of behavioral targeting compare with other types of advertising?

Hope: In general, costs per impression are higher, but this extra cost is more than compensated by an increase in ROI. I work mainly in the context of Google AdWords, where display exists in an auction and cost is dependent on how much you want to spend and how much competition exists for the particular inventory or Web site your ads will display on. I tend to bid higher for retargeting campaigns than traditional display campaigns, to ensure that these ads will appear.

Jay: What’s the saturation point where displaying a particular ad multiple times to the same visitor ceases to become effective and starts to become annoying?

Hope: I think the best way to handle this issue is to think both in terms of how many times to show an ad or for how often, and also in terms of going the extra mile to target on a page-specific and action-specific level. With extra thought and effort put into targeting, you bring in extra consideration for your customers. For example:

  • For a visitor who added something to a cart or viewed a specific product page but did not buy, you might target a maximum of 4 times a day for 30 days, with an ad specific to the product category they considered.
  • For a visitor who made a purchase, you might wait 30 days during which you exclude them from retargeting campaigns, then target them with specific cross-sell messages 2 times a day for the next 60 days.
  • For all other visitors, you might target a max of 4 times a week for 60 days, with a simple brand message.

Methodical experimentation is the best approach, coupled with reasonable consideration and intuition!



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