Category Archives: behavioral targeting

Solutions to the Privacy Debate: Lemons, Carrots and Potatoes

After reading the How to Prevent the ‘Do Not Track’ Arms Race  by Peter Swire, the inanity of it all becomes more apparent.The premise of this Wired piece is that users should have a choice…they do. They can visit a site and are implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) agreeing to receive free content and services in exchange for being presented with targeted ads.

Canny Web browsers are in a mad dash to curry favor with the genteel “Information should be free” crowd visible in the user comments. It seems that this end-run was done to pre-empt negotiations through W3C, most likely in an attempt to gain market share. However, it is surprising that for an attorney that Swire missed the opportunity to articulate the above quid pro quo argument missing in the discussion. Then again, so did the IAB. See Digital Media Lesson in Shooting One’s Foot (Part I).

The Dead Weight Web Audience (DWWW) consists of variety of ad/tracking dodgers. The size of this audience and their habits can be measured by most major site analytics tools and ad servers out-of-the-box or with some customization. Common methods include:

  1. Browser DNT
  2. Cookie blockers
  3. Ad blockers
  4. JS rejectors
  5. NAI opt-outs
  6. Likely cookie-deleters
  7. Others…

While the politicians posture and the debate rages on, sometimes it is necessary to turn these lemons into lemonade. The good news is that, solid ad analytics (or adverlytics) can inform the decision-making process about which kinds are most prevalent in your target Web audience.


Advertisers
It all starts with digital marketers and their agencies paying attention to the details of ad delivery. The growing interest in ad viewability is encouraging. For those that really want to reach a tech-savvy entitled audience that wants nothing to do with their ads  they will need to first measure it, in order to monetize it.


  • Carrot. Demographics on this audience may skew higher education and higher income; this  audience spends a lot of time online and believes in getting something for nothing and not afraid to post about it. Measuring the performance of this specific audience for your ad campaigns however, may require a concerted effort by digital media planners and analytics professionals – but that is their job.
  • Stick: Time to get up off the couch and start asking questions of your media suppliers, agencies and analytics team. Advertisers wasting impressions on an audience that doesn’t want any ads and is actively blocking your efforts to show them an ad is kind of masochistic. Ignorance is no longer an excuse as the money being wasted on targeting into the unappreciated abyss, could instead be heavied-up with more receptive audiences. Again, analytics can help refine targeting.

If existing agency analytics can’t measure the Dead Weight Web Audience, then consider adding an independent analytics consultant.

Publishers
For site publishers that really want to attract the free-riding tech-savvy audience that also wants nothing to do with supporting their business model, the same advice applies: measure it and monetize it.

  • Carrot: Allow them to consume content for free, but find a way to sell advertising against this special audience. Free-riders can become its own targetable segment by definition – no off-site tracking or ad network is even needed. Anyone with DNT header activated, rejecting 3rd party cookies, blocking JS, etc…Most larger pubs already have an audience research/analytics and ad ops teams that can help do this and if not, additional consultants can be engaged.
  • Stick: Just say no to the content free-riders. While this has been really difficult for sites that have historically been in search of bulk ad impression delivery, the writing is on the wall considering the drive for ad viewability. When these literally dodgy people visit a site, send them a pop-up that advises them to pay for the session, subscribe, register or add site to the targeting white list. If the users choose not to, show them an empty page, very stripped down content or allow an annoying freebie cap. BTW, the pop-up can carry an ad, too.

Ad Networks
The real question is what to do with the DWWW that expects free content to be there when they arrive at a network Web site. These users can be sized up and once this is done, it is a question of monetization:

  • Carrot. Though anecdotal research suggests a small percentage of users are actually opting-out and that the size of the audience is relatively small, it does represent a valuable tech-savvy segment. Simply enable ad targeting of the DNT, NAI Opt-outs and the 3rd party cookie blocking crowd. Many ad networks have a means to even exclude likely cookie-deleters from their targeting. Folks, that sounds like a new segment to sell.
  • Stick. Develop or implement ad/pay wall technology. This will force the quid pro quo. For users that want to read their favorite bloggers, they will need to pay up with cash or a small slice of their attention. Smaller long-tail publisher partners will need help pulling this off but ad networks could easily deploy this technology.

Conclusion
Whether using the carrot, the stick or both, the solution is that advertisers and publishers need to take action on their own to stop getting ripped-off. Don’t carry this sack of entitled potatoes on your back. Now is the time to measure and monetize this otherwise mass of Dead Weight Web Audience.

Leveraging an incremental approach that leverages solid adverlytics, these strategies can boost the bottom-line and shape the digital media industry for the future. In doing so, many of these regulatory problems will solve themselves.

Learn to Say No to Free-riders.

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    Facebook Acquisition of Atlas: Sad Day for Digital Advertisers

                                                          The Funeral of Santa Fina”, Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1485

    Facebook just announced the other day  that it would acquire Atlas Solutions, a long-time competitor to Google’s DFA in the agency ad server business. As an adverlytics practitioner, many are asking about this and still more discussing the implications. Though the trade press will gush, investors may cheer and Atlas employees may be breathing a sigh of relief, it is truly a sad day for digital advertisers. Why? The choices available for independent third party ad serving (3PAS) just got much thinner. 

    The Rationale

    To be sure this is a canny move for Baby Google, just as Google’s DoubleClick acquisition engorged the dataplex with rich user-level behavioral data that spanned both both buy-side (DFA) and sell-side (DFP) – it was brilliant. And after several years, the folks at Google decided to invest in the DFA reporting interface and we now have a Google Analytics like wrapper (except it is now green). Not much improvement on core functionality like reach and frequency reporting, but hey – it is better than ReportCentral.

    The fact that DFA has maintained such a large market share since the Google acquisition suggests that client’s aren’t paying close attention to ad serving details. The very notion of pushback from advertisers and agencies is so unlikely that now, Google will also tell you how many of their ads were viewable, too. The Facebook deal is banking on it. For that matter, MediaPlex was absorbed into ValueClick way back in 2001 – they also own an ad network, an affiliate platform and Dotomi.

    For Facebook, this is a very smart move although it relies on digital marketers being easily distracted and not looking too closely. In this deal, it is not really about “closing the loop” for advertisers. FB could ostensibly do this now with the much heralded unicorn called the Conversion Pixel or View-Tags. What they are “closing the loop” on is their understanding and ability to datamine what many other advertisers campaigns are doing, and the targets of those ad campaigns and those behaviors across client sites via the Atlas Universal Tracking Tag infrastructure. It probably won’t be long before Facebook offers their own Analytics platform or maybe a Tag Management System. Like its hero, FB is often times ethically challenged when it comes to who’s data is it any way. Just recently, it was revealed that Facebook has manipulated their advertisers’ campaign performance reporting.

    That said, Atlas as a platform has faded over the years and needs investment to compete. It’s once advanced approach to attribution Engagement Mapping and stream of research from the Atlast Institute was a favorite among the analytics-minded. Yet, under Microsoft this pioneer of ad serving suffered from functional obsolescence as more site-centric and advanced algorithmic measurement has become more available. At the same time, Pointroll and MediaMind pivoted from rich media platforms to full-bodied ad servers. Many digital ad ops people that used Atlas regularly liked it, but later complained about lack of support. The upside is that Atlas won’t be shutting down anytime soon.

    However, digital advertisers and agencies should be on notice now more than ever.

    Recommendations

    1. Don’t Buy Technology and Media From the Same Vendor – In a world of digital marketing and an endless stream of bright shiny objects, it should give client-side marketers and savvy agencies pause that this is a serious conflict-of-interest that work against them. Since these ad serving tools are often counting ad impressions and clicks that they themselves sold – there is an incentive for self-serving manipulation.
      • For a better idea of how campaigns are performing leverage tools like Omniture, ComScore’s DigitalAnalytix. Coremetrics and WebTrends.
      • For more advanced attribution measurement look at independent tools like Adometry, Visual IQ or C3.
    2. Don’t Share your Behavioral Data – For the pleasure of sharing your valuable behavioral data, you are probably paying $0.04 oto $0.08 CPM to Google (through your agency and this may be marked-up). In this respect, far too many digital media agencies are dropping the ball on data stewardship and going with what is expedient. Ultimately reflects on them, but it also speaks to rampant client-side advertiser ambivalence or worse ignorance. 
      • For those that insist are intentionally looking to harness their user data, at least get something in return for example by joining a data co-op like Akamai ADS (now part of MediaMath). Privacy policy implications may vary.

      Advertisers and their agencies need to understand the very high proce they are paying. Time to look away from the Google, ValueClick and now the Facebook ad stack and consider other choices toute suite. In terms of ad servers left, the remaining major independent ad servers include MediaMind and Pointroll (though it is technically owned by Gannett, a newspaper company this is not as big a data play).

      Final Thought: Where is the FTC?

      Not sure where the FTC will come down on this but they essentially rubber-stamped the Google-DoubleClick acquisition back in 2007. Arguably this deal really does limit choice for digital advertisers but don’t count on the FTC doing much to scrutinize this. That digital advertisers and their agencies don’t value independent ad serving (and free of back-door data siphoning) is their problem and eventually it will sort itself out. To be sure the digital media ecosystem is complex and constantly-changing and federal bureacrtas are more focused on other more important matters. Plus, ad-serving just doesn’t make headlines like nefarious cookie tracking and consumer privacy.

      OMMA Behavioral Coming Up…

      Mediapost’s OMMA Behavioral is coming up mid-July…looks very promising; I’m expecting to attend!

      • Tacoda founder (and one of my former bosses from RealMedia) Dave Morgan is opening it up – very fitting!
        • Unrelated but Dave wrote an interesting article in AdAge about the communal consumption of video a few months back. See The End of the Shared Media Experience? (AdAge): “Media’s past was anchored in content people consumed at the same time in the same place, such as movies in theaters, or at the same time but in different places, such as shows on TV and radio and news in papers and magazines. Media is now shifting more and more toward an on-demand future.”
      • Joe Andrieau is also going to be there on the data portability panel…should be very interesting…OpenSocial in the context of advertising.
      • Keynote is being given by Omniture’s Josh James – an interesting albeit non-obvious choice. Omniture’s management has expressed interest in redefining “behavioral” for their on site multivariate Test & Targeting package (acquired in Offermatica and a UK-based company). Most of the industry sees this as an offsite challenge.

      At Walmart.com’s Online Media program it was both.

      Behavioral Ad Targeting Snippets of Note

      • AdAge reports on Rainbow Media’s AMC, introducing behavioral targeting characteristics to its upfront sales via a new measurement system developed with Nielsen: Audience Identity Metric (AIM) is a “new “measurement tool will help advertisers align brands to psychographic categories of AMC viewers. Very interesting, is this online behavior-based media planning influencing TV advertising or media trade hype?
      • Looks like a German company, NuggAd is picking up where Neural OptiMatch left off with Predictive Real-Time Behavioral Targeting.

      Dueling BT Banjos…

      Interesting exchange between Bennett Zucker and Bill Gossman about who came up with the term “behavioral targeting”.

      The roots of BT technology go deep…the 2nd wave firms (Tacoda, RSI, Blue Lithium, 247RM) have certainly hit a nerve with online marketers. One nettlesome caveat is the pernicious patent problem associated with it.

      After extensively using the tools myself at Walmart.com (247RM’s flavor), publishers now have plenty of control, much better reporting and control interfaces; the results have been impressive in clickthrough and conversion rates.

      The question is does BT scale?

      Neural’s OptiMatch had a unique approach!