Behavioural Targeting Misunderstood

August 25, 2008

What is behavioural targeting?

Ask one sales team at a large publisher: It means we can sell more inventory in our sold-out categories; effectively it’s an extension to our most popular channels.

Ask another: It’s not really something we need, but we offer it in order to be seen to offer a complete range of products.

And: We offer it, I think, but we never sell it.  Sales don’t really know how to price it or describe it.  Agencies ask for it only occasionally, and when they do, they don’t really know what they’re asking for.

So, behavioural targeting is either a simple (but often unnecessary) way to increase inventory, or it’s so complicated it’s unsellable.  Which is it?  Both and… um… neither…

It can be configured as an extension to traditional channelised inventory, it’s true, but that misses the real value.  It’s real value is that it can be used to descibe website users as advertisers do.  Advertisers don’t want people who use a channel – they just don’t think in channels.

Advertising marketeers create personas; e.g. “Jasmine is a young, single professional who uses the Internet to communicate with her wide social circle, to read celebrity gossip and to buy beauty products.”  Behavioural targeting offers the opportunity to bypass the rigid structure of channels and step directly into this way of thinking – a ‘Jasmine’ profile can be created for this advertiser.

Publishers need to step out of the ‘standard ad product’ mentality.  Behavioural targeting allows products to be created specifically for an advertisers needs – to be effective, it has to be that way.

Is it harder to sell this way?  Possibly, because publishers and agencies have developed a way of thinking which is different, but the irony is that, once understood, it is the easiest sale there is, because it is exactly what is being asked for.