BT from the Ad Operations Perspective 2.0

In 2006 I wrote an article, outlining the challenges and benefits of utilizing behavioral targeting from the ad ops perspective. 

Recapping the piece, I started by saying:

“Whenever an ad technology comes along promising to attract new advertisers and higher CPMs, sales divisions begin to listen. If it claims to increase the supply of high value inventory, they listen a little bit more. When the technology actually begins to show up increasingly on RFPs it makes the leap from gimmick to serious consideration. Having reached this stage of serious consideration, ad operations is called in to evaluate the product and assess its value.”

Furthermore I discussed what a BT segment is, how to calculate its potential value, and how to manage the segments in the context of other ad inventory. Of course, there are challenges too….

With all the demands on inventory management ranging from demographic targeting to rich media to high sell-through of targeted areas, those of us in ad operations may feel that the last thing we need is to add more complexity to this matrix. It just makes us worry more. (Why can’t we just turn off the lights at 6 PM and head home?!)

In the end, because of demand, the potential value, and in spite of the challenges, BT was a technology worth leveraging:

“…..the indications are that this technique may be a useful part of your arsenal in ad operations. It may not be guaranteed to double your Mojo, but it’s no Doctor Evil, either.”

So yeah, looking back in time and in comparison, this looks like the good old days, when all we had to worry about in inventory management was calculating overlap for behavioral segments and third-party agency ad servers. How naïve can you get!?

Today (sigh) there is so much more to worry about. It’s not just about managing discrepancies between GAM and DCM, but between MOAT, DoubleVerify, Integral Ad Sciences  and other third party management firms. And don’t get me started on audience- based measurement. More than one broadcasting company has offered up a demo guarantee based on “seat of the pants” calculation, only to have a third party like ComScore or Nielsen say “your demo guarantee is off by X%”.

I’m going to give myself a grade of C on my initial article in 2006, if only because I was whining about the difficulties of managing behavioral targeting and inventory, when the challenge is exponentially more difficult today in 2020.

What does this say about the future? We’re in for bumpy ride. Continued disputes about demo targeting will persist. Now that we are getting into addressable inventory with video DAI, estimating inventory and managing delivery across multiple end points will be even more important. Companies that don’t already have an inventory analyst focused on discrepancies will hire them. Organizations will attempt to write policy to manage this process too, and who knows what additional technology will created over the next 14 years?

I’m marking my calendar for 2034, and I’ll make sure to provide you all with any update.

(Psyche!)

BT from the Ad Operations Perspective (Originally published for iMedia Connection 2/24/06)

Whenever an ad technology comes along promising to attract new advertisers and higher CPMs, sales divisions begin to listen. If it claims to increase the supply of high value inventory, they listen a little bit more. When the technology actually begins to show up increasingly on RFPs it makes the leap from gimmick to serious consideration. Having reached this stage of serious consideration, ad operations is called in to evaluate the product and assess its value. 

A lot has been written about behavioral targeting of late, and plenty of it in this publication. Having been involved with at least three companies in the consideration or implementation of the technology there are some interesting challenges as well as benefits from the ad operations standpoint. So hopefully this article will add some new dimension of interest from that perspective– and will reveal aspects of behavioral targeting not often brought to the surface.

Create a segment, watch what happens

First, so we don’t create any international incidents here, let me state what most of us in the business already know: behavioral targeting is based on anonymous information. We only know what groups or “segments” do– not who they are.

That being said, when you create a segment in behavioral targeting (for example, viewers of SUV product info who have looked at 10 content pages in the last two weeks) there is an interesting side benefit that goes beyond just serving it an ad. You can view where and how frequently the segment traverses other areas of your site, and that gives you a more complete picture of their profile as a user. It might interest you to know that out of the 600,000 pages viewed by people in this SUV segment, 50,000 page views were generated when they looked at content related to recreational road trips, 50,000 in local weather, 50,000 in motorsports, 100,000 in run of site (RON) pages, and the balance generated in pages devoted to SUV product information. So now you know that this group of SUV enthusiasts has other interests that take them to various areas of your site. This has implications both in making decisions on developing new content, new ad products and sponsorship opportunities.

Sounds like site analytics, you say? Well, yeah. In deploying behavioral targeting, you may even be using the same pixel as your site analytics product. What’s the difference? In this case, it’s your immediate accessibility to information not often in the control of ad operations. It’s the speed with which the information can be obtained (24 hours) and it’s the flexibility to create measurable segments on the fly. It can also help with managing inventory.

Impact on Inventory

With all the demands on inventory management ranging from demographic targeting to rich media to high sell-through of targeted areas, those of us in ad operations may feel that the last thing we need to add more complexity to this matrix. It just makes us worry more. (Why can’t we just turn off the lights at 6 PM and head home?!)

To reduce the complexity, I’m an advocate of creating the equivalent of “no-fly zones” in inventory. By that I mean exclude your most valuable content from behavioral targeting. You obviously don’t want to muck up inventory in those areas and cause under-delivery. Focus instead on RON or remnant inventory for the targeting of behavioral segments. Remember the SUV segment? Calculate how many page views they generate when they’re wandering through RON (which could include message boards, miscellaneous content, etc). Then, estimate the resulting ad impressions and use that as your behavioral inventory. Call it “premium remnant” if you want. But if the result is to significantly raise the effective CPM of your remnant inventory– this becomes a winner of a product.

What’s the Incremental Value?

Don’t look to behavioral companies to help define the value of this targeting product for your site. The truth is, only you know the intricacies of your site, your inventory, your content and the level of demand for the product.

In terms of finding the potential value, take a look at your RON (run of network) and remnant inventory. Here’s a sample equation for discovering the potential value for site “X”:

  • Your site has RON/remnant inventory consisting of 50 million ad impressions
  • The CPM of that inventory is $1.00, with a resulting $50,000 in media revenue
  • Targeted content on the site sells for $10 per CPM
  • Behavioral targeting can be sold for 75 percent of that, or $7.50 CPM
  • Convert 20 percent of your RON inventory (10 million impressions) to behavioral
  • The resulting media value from the 10 million impressions is $75,000
  • You still have 40 million RON/remnant impressions left at $1.00 CPM, or $40,000
  • Now, the total value of your RON/remnant inventory is $115,000 with an effective CPM of $2.30, more than double what you started with.

Granted, your site may or may not fit this profile and behavioral may or may not be a slam dunk for you. Like the disclaimers say, “Past performance is no guarantee of future results,” “See your doctor if there are persistent headaches or cramps” and “Keep away from small children.”

But the indications are that this technique may be a useful part of your arsenal in ad operations.

It may not be guaranteed to double your Mojo, but it’s no Doctor Evil, either.

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