Vital Stats - Behaviourally targeted advertising

LONDON - This year, we, as an industry, should finally arrive at the “promised land” of behaviourally targeted advertising – something that has been promised since 1995.

The latest to make that promise is Phorm, which joins industry giants such as MSN (with its 2006 purchase of aQuantive), Yahoo (with Right Media and Blue Lithium) and Google (with DoubleClick).

Assuming that these capabilities will be widely available in 2008, the bigger question is whether marketers, and their agencies, are ready and able to deliver. Historically, advertising and media strategies have been based on demographics – which, to be truthful, are a proxy for behaviour – so how will we plan and execute with accurate behavioural information?

According to our data, the UK’s online population is fairly evenly split at 52% male and 48% female, but behaviour differs by gender.

Women account for 23% more time with health and beauty content than their share of the total population would predict. A demographically focused beauty product marketer would create a media plan to reach this audience when they are on these sites – along with every other marketer targeting this same audience.

Focusing on behaviour, however, clever marketers can reach their target audience wherever they go on the internet.
Where do they go for news? What instant messaging service, e-mail or search provider do they use? Our data shows that those most interested in health and beauty content are more likely to receive their news from MSNBC than the Financial Times and are more likely to use Orange Mail than Hotmail for e-mail.

Savvy marketers will know their consumers, understand their behaviour and create strategies to efficiently find them. But this can only happen if they recognise that traditional demographics are just a proxy for behaviour in the first place.

- By Bob Ivins, executive vice-president and managing director Europe, comScore

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