Last Mile of Behavioral Targeting

Just a quick note this morning to acknowledge comments from Blogger Jim Nichols, from Catalyst in SF, with respect to my podcast interview.

Jim wrote:

Not only does he communicate that their menu banners are a form of BT, but also he explains that they can be a complement to BT. Rather than me paraphrasing the content, here’s an interview excerpt:

So, to use a football analogy, behavioral targeting will get you into the red zone — but no farther. We don’t do our own ad placement. However, if a customer already using BT has the data to know you are a certain profile, we can take that data and further customize the way menus are structured. If you know from their browsing that a customer, let’s say, is a bargain hunter, then you can organize your different offers by price range.”

I’m happy to see this aspect and nuance of our solution getting recognition, and for those who want to delve even deeper into the logic here, check out my article in MEDIAWEEK, called “What Customers Want.”

- David

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Clickthrough Is Losing Its Relevance

David L. Smith suggested yesterday in a post in the Metrics Insider that the clickthrough, as a measure of banner ad campaign performance, is losing its relevance. What matters is conversions, and optimizing ads for conversions and not clicks, is the only thing that makes sense. I agree on many levels, except that we shouldn’t blame a lack of metrics for what I think is a problem created by fundamentally bad ads. Read More »

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Podcast interview with David Sidman

Listen to Linkstorm CEO David Sidman discuss the company’s technology, solutions and client results.

The interview was conducted by Latino Print Network’s Kirk Whisler during the 2008 AdTech San Francisco trade show.

Click on the picture below to hear the podcast.

Click to hear Podcast


Addition June 4th, 2008: Also check out this post for comments.

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Window-shopping, display advertising, etc.

Banner ads on the web are analogous to storefronts on a busy street. It’s a menagerie of businesses promoting their products and services, enticing you to take a closer look or come in. Some pedestrians might throw a sales sign a passing glance or even stop by the window to see what’s on display.

Banners generate very similar behavior from customers. The goal, naturally, like the real-world storefronts, is to slow the customers down, get them to evaluate the advertiser’s offer and enter the store. This means one, noticing the ad, two, evaluating the ad for relevance and finally, clicking through to the advertiser’s site

It seems we’re asking a lot from a small little graphic on a very busy page. Are advertisers trying to make banners do too much? Could banners be more effective if their objectives were less ambitious?

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Video advertisers are still trying to jump in front of the screen. There’s a better way.

In reading Tameka Kee’s Mediapost article “Advertisers Get Buzzed On YouTube With New Targeting Capability“, I came across the following quote about video advertising - which I’ve heard a million times but this time I was inspired to respond.

Here’s the quote (from Court Crandall, creative partner at Ground Zero):

“At the moment, any online advertisement that delays or impedes the enjoyment of online content is perceived as a hassle and an infringement on your Internet rights,” Crandall said. “But that will change in the same way that “The Ed Sullivan Show,” sponsored by Lincoln Mercury, eventually became “Saturday Night Live” with 246 commercial interruptions per hour. The purists won’t like it, but it represents the future.”

I believe there’s a middle course here that is a win/win for both user and advertiser: make the ad more truly useful to the customer – WITHOUT impeding the flow of the video – so that it drives high click-through and conversion because it is intrinsically intriguing. By “useful” I don’t mean attention-grabbing, as in flashy (no pun intended) rich media effects – I mean actually making it useful by providing deep navigation back to the advertiser’s content or product info.

Consider the following demo example of an NBC “Heroes” video clip, where you can watch the video and yet while it’s rolling, you can still browse the newest car models from the advertiser Nissan:

Or here’s a video ad per se (from an actual Cisco Linkstorm campaign) where we overlaid our menu onto a DoubleClick Klipmart ad: once again, you can enjoy the video (which does a great job of grabbing your attention), yet at the same time you can navigate directly to actual Cisco product information.

There are many example of Linkstorm’s regular banner advertising on, including case studies showing how we routinely drive CTR increases of 3x-5x compared to the same ads on the same sites running without a Linkstorm menu.

But video is an even more extreme case where there’s still such a zero-sum game between the user wanting to simply enjoy a video and the advertiser wanting to jump in front of the screen and stick a message in her face. One would think that here Linkstorm represents a win/win, hands-down. Surely video-based advertisers would want the same performance gains as regular banner advertisers, and might not even mind treating their customers well in the process.

Who out there would like to see us marketing more actively to the Video world?

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There Be Monsters In These Waters!

Last night I was poking around on the web looking up information on click-through rates (CTRs) of display advertising. Yes, in my free time. As I was surfing, I came across an interesting weblog entry from another display advertising company whose entry title read, "MySpace Revenue Down Because Banner Ads Suck."

Oh really? I asked.

After letting the professional language of the title ferment a bit, I read on to see what the fuss was all about. They were linking to an article on TechCrunch, which was reporting on how MySpace — and therefore News Corp. — has fallen short of its one-billion dollar goal this year. TechCrunch quotes Google founder Larry Page:

On social networking monetization, it is an area where we have tried a lot of new technologies. Demographic targeting has been successful. The challenge and the opportunity is that there is a lot of inventory. Part of it is just getting the advertising ecosystem built up and targeting in a way that makes sense. We have made some improvements but there are more improvements to be made. It takes time for advertisers to [get up to speed].

TechCrunch disagreed, arguing that Larry Page is blaming the advertisers, and the blog I was reading went on to argue that the problem isn’t targeting but that audiences are no longer receptive to ads on the internet. And can you blame the audiences? We’ve all become programmed to fear ad popups, ads that suddenly take control of your webpage, obscuring 25-50% of the webpage your viewing — and quite possibly simply by accidentally rolling your mouse over an ad banner; or worse, the fear of malware or virus infection.

We (the ad industry) have lost their (the users) trust and we need to regain it. Read More »

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The Art of Consolidation - Part I - Planning Ahead

With all of the talk these days about consolidation and Xen as the keystone to that process for affordable, DIY environments, there’s something lacking from the tips, tricks, and how-to’s on getting started. I see a large focus on setting up cluster file systems, SANs, and other shared storage solutions mixed with heartbeat to provide a level of resiliency; but small shops trying to deal with the added layers of complexity of HA storage also often don’t realize what they’re getting themselves into.

With the added hardware efficiency virtualization brings, the eager and well intentioned systems person can and will now run more servers than before on less hardware.

  • That 3rd DNS server can now be setup…
  • Just one more image server…
  • I’ll clone everything just to have hot and/or cold standbys…

Approaching a new, consolidated, virtualized environment requires taking some steps back and rethinking the basics before adding on the complexity virtualization itself imposes, let alone, those of exotic and esoteric storage systems.

What are those basics? Let’s talk about the problems that plague your every day systems administrators.  As those of us who’ve been through the start-up mill know, systems are usually put in place initially by non-systems people, then handed off to inexperienced systems people, only to be inherited by experienced technologists, at some point, usually at a point where the systems have grown to an unmanageable number and the effects felt are what prompts the hire.

Here are just a few of the many problems… Read More »

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“More, better clicks” is the outcome – a better way to navigate the Web is the cause

When Linkstorm decided to enter the Online Advertising space, we already had our product in place:  a new and better way to navigate the Web. Not one page at a time – a time-consuming process of click, wait, click, wait, click, wait – but instead, a way to preview all relevant destinations upfront, BEFORE the click. That way, when the click comes, it’s a click directly to what you really want – deep into a website right to the product you want, the answer to your question, or the information you need to make a decision.

You can’t achieve this by shoveling a couple of extra links into a flashy (no pun intended), attention-grabbing ad; you can only achieve it by providing a carefully-crafted navigation roadmap, designed by the party who best understands what their customers might want and how they might want to get to it, and that has enough choices to actually provide the paths relevant to a wide spectrum of customers with a wide range of information needs. Read More »

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James Brown & Banner Advertising

James Brown, the Hardest Working Man in Show Biz, earned his title with his splits, hard hitting grooves, riffs and stabs. Carrying the funk scene on his shoulders for years, even when funk was in the funk, was a tall order for a short man. But he did it.

The interactive advertising industry, like the music industry, has its own lineup of characters to make sure the beat goes on. For online advertising, the hardest working medium in the biz has to be the banner ad. Like Mr. Brown, it has survived new trends and new kids on the block, yet has found ways to get on up and get even. Read More »

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Alternatives to Behavioral Targeting are lost in the noise

Recent reports show that consumers by and large remain uncomfortable with having their every move and action online tracked by advertisers for the purpose of serving them advertising.

Consumers do understand advertising sponsors the multitude of free content and services they enjoy, and that more relevant advertising can even be useful. Nonetheless, many consumers, especially those older than the 18-34 cohort, feel their privacy is being invaded.

Some people like Sean Cummings, say that online privacy is a myth and that young people today don’t have an expectation, even desire, for privacy, at least judged by the information they gladly volunteer on social networks. Read More »

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