Stop guesstimating and get with the program.

Stop guesstimating with programmatic advertising

We contrasted the differences between data rich User Profiles for ad targeting and the shallower profiles used by search engines and social networks in our recent post “Getting personal” .

For targeted campaign success, data rich User Profiles can win out in a big way.

Here’s a real-world example where the same advertiser tried both – a Google-based strategy by a search engine agency and a User Profile strategy that we provided.

By every measure, the MarketServ™ strategy out-performed the Google strategy.

Google Campaign by Others
Name Spend Clicks Cost/Click Impressions
Display $6,625.77 2,748 $2.41 614,090
Search $5,908.56 2,461 $2.40 82,306
TOTAL $12,534.33 5,209 $2.41 696,396
MarketServ Campaign by Iris
Name Spend Clicks Cost/Click Impressions
Audience Targeting $7,500.00 6,456 $1.16 2,425,040
Content Targeting $9,700.00 10,992 $0.88 4,741,133
Site/Search Retargeting $2,799.00 16,962 $0.17 1,082,862
TOTAL $19,999.00 34,410 $0.58 8,249,035

The reasons shed light on the rapid growth of Programmatic Advertising, which applies data analytics and information technology to advertising tactics and operations.

Programmatic Advertising has arrived in full force because it works. Computers replace guesswork in ad spending to deliver higher ROI.

Big sets of data and machine-driven analytics develop User Profiles for better targeting precision from campaign planning through execution. And information technology similar to the stock market optimizes the “next ad served” at the most efficient price throughout the campaign rather than human guesswork to make “wait & see” adjustments in the Google campaign.

Audience and Content Targeting:

The MarketServ™ campaign served ads to an Audience developed from proprietary User Profiles of recorded behaviors that match those of the client’s customers. Detailed online histories identified their lifestyles, shopping habits, browsing and search habits, and the web sites they visited regularly and on what type of device.

Google served ads to those who searched and discovered the client’s site regardless of any match to characteristics of its customers or objectives of the campaign.

Site/Search Retargeting/Remarketing:

Because the MarketServ™ audience was so highly qualified in the first place, retargeting to its audience resulted in a very high click through rate and correspondingly low Cost Per Click compared to Google.

Information Technology and Management:

The software that managed the MarketServ™ campaign is used by the biggest brands for their campaigns. Its algorithms continuously optimized the campaign to serve the next ad based on predictive analytics of preceding responses in the campaign.

Experienced ad traffic managers directly at the data management platform interpret statistical results and manage adjustments.

Google campaigns require intensive management time by the advertiser (or at least a surrogate). Its software does not have optimization capabilities. The human interface has to “best guesstimate” everything from keyword refinements to what bid price will win to expose the ad.

Will every advertiser get the same results? Of course not.

But rather than replace the human element, Programmatic Advertising helps advertisers make educated decisions to best achieve marketing and campaign objectives to drive traffic to your web site whatever your goals – such as generate leads for your funnel, build sales, or create awareness to support other advertising channels.

To maintain competitive edge, businesses need to get on board to the transformational opportunities of Programmatic Advertising.

A traveler’s guide to Geo-targeted Advertising

A traveler's guide to Geo-targeted AdvertisingAdventure travel and geo-targeted Internet advertising have a lot in common.

Consider this definition from Wikipedia: “Adventure travel is a type of tourism, involving exploration or travel with perceived (and possibly actual) risk, and potentially requiring specialized skills and physical exertion.”

Well, maybe not the physical exertion because you’re doing the heavy lifting at your desk, but you’re certainly risking dollars with your specialized skills.

Geo-targeted display ads are the rage promoted by the major tour operators – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, Yahoo, Bing. They’re all clamoring for your ad dollars.

And while the Web can take your ad anywhere in the world, your campaign may not come back with the souvenirs like you hoped when you planned your adventure.

So, here are some travel tips before you set out on your journey.

Know the technology that’s being used to deliver your ad. And remember – your ad is targeted to devices, not the users and profiles of those users (more on that later).

IP-based targeting is the underlying technology – the compass – used by the search engines and social media ad programs. The limitations of IP mapping can be like magnets that throw the compass’ needle out of whack.

IP-based targeting delivers your ad to the computer’s geographic location based on the Internet Protocol address assigned by its ISP (Internet Service Provider). The IP address does not have a direct correlation to exact geography like a ZIP code. Private networks, corporate networks, rural and exurban areas (from where ISP’s reroute users to their server buildings) are just some of the intervening factors.

Travelers TipTravelers Tip: IP mapping accuracy is not 100%. The more granular you get, the less accurate it becomes so your ad will be delivered to viewers who aren’t in the territory. It’s pretty good down to the City/Metropolitan area level. It’s offered at the zip code level, but approach cautiously.

A/B test until you get it right. For example, bundle a few neighboring zip codes rather than using just one or expand/contract the radius around your center point.

Mobile or Location-based targeting is the other underlying technology, but despite the huge gains in mobile access by users, it has not gained traction with the advertising programs offered by search engines and social networks.

Mobile or Location-based targeting gets its geographic information in one of two ways: Confirmed or Derived. Confirmed location targeting depends on the user turning on the device’s GPS capabilities or when the user “checks in” at a location. Derived relies on inferences such as tri-angulation of cell towers and mapped Wi-Fi hot spots.

IP-base targeting to devices is much less sophisticated than targeting actual users that fit an actual profile of your target audience. Since search engines and social networks don’t maintain the depth of user information to support user profile-based advertising, IP targeting works for them.

Travelers TipTravelers Tip: IP-based geo-targeting is a good way to get your campaign into the general area for most of your audience, but it’s not a precise map to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You need to include other targeting factors when planning your campaign.

So user information comes into play. You need to know who are you targeting.

The search engines and social networks aggregate their data and also apply some analytics to create modifiers to refine the Geo-targeting for better ROI. Google, for example, uses the search histories of their users. Facebook uses Profile information and aggregates information on users’ friends to better define the individual.

User-profile based targeting is highly effective for hyper-targeted campaigns because the profiles have much more direct 1st party online data that have been gathered from multiple sources. All kinds of behavioral and shopping history data are in each profile. Geographic information – both IP and Location-based – are just a couple of the hundreds of attributes within each profile. This allows the data managers to create very specific campaign Audiences from millions of profiles with hundreds of attributes on each profile.

Geo-targeting and User profile targeting can both lead to great campaigns. Like travel plans, your campaigns cost thousands of dollars. Plan your budget to try both, and scale up what works best over time.

Happy Trails…

Return on Investment (ROI) for the digital marketing manager

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Marketing and advertising managers need to understand that their business owners and financial colleagues are – first and foremost – risk-averse. So while they give you budget to grow their business, they really see you as the ones taking their capital and putting it at the greatest risk of loss.

Lose too much, too often, and you’ll lose your job.

On the other hand, like a successful financial advisor, if your track record is growth over the long-term, then you gain their trust and more funds to invest.  As long as you provide overall financial growth as their Return on Investment, those that control your purse strings will understand that sometimes campaigns don’t work and loose money, and some just return enough Contribution Margin to break-even and preserve capital.

So for digital marketers in Small and Medium Businesses’ (those with sales less than $50 million), here’s the first dilemma. We know that building brand awareness is important to the process, but we often do not have the budget to measure and report any ROI.

Even other benchmarks like number of followers, page visits, click through rates, cost per acquisition, and cost per thousand are just market indicators. They’re useful to us, but don’t trump Bottom Line Metrics when evaluating our track record. We need to produce more customers, sales revenue, and net profit.

Take heart. Some of the fundamental advantages of digital advertising also provide solutions.

Long-term commitments to Digital Display and SEO provide tools to manage those investments better than in print or broadcast.

1. Digital Display and SEO are a continuous flow of campaign dollars (not a series of single jolts like sending the mail or publishing the ad). Like Wall Street analysts, we can continuously monitor our invested dollars; e.g., opens and completed actions (such as online orders or forms submitted), and adjust our next spends accordingly.

2. A real-world case study by Harvard Business School Professor Sunil Guptai (1) – a leading researcher of how digital technology is changing consumer behavior, transforming businesses and influencing society – had important conclusions bearing on ROI.

Gupta and his group studied a commercial bank’s efforts to gain new checking account customers through combined campaigns of Display and SEO. They broke down results and attributed revenues and costs to both campaigns.

They concluded:

  • Display supports Search: a sustained increase in display impressions drives a significant increase in search visitation and search clicks.
  • When the long-run dynamics of Display and Search campaigns were reviewed, the ROI were better – about 10% and 38% higher respectively.

All of that’s well and good for big banks with money to spend on attribution research, but how can we apply this knowledge to our tasks at SMB’s?

Part of it’s perception – manage how you are viewed by others.

1. Recognize your role as an investment manager of your company’s working capital for business development.

2. All members of your advertising and marketing team are facing increasing pressure to produce results. So develop a culture with them that thrives on creativity, but understands that the company has entrusted all of you with its working capital.

3. Reach out to your business owners and financial colleagues, and convey that perspective to them. Let them know that you are working to increase Contribution Margin for the company as a result of your campaigns. (What others do with the money after that is outside your control, but you’re a team player).

And part of it’s reality – manage how you use the funds entrusted to you.

1. Remember that Display has significant impact on your Search results. So allocate enough funds to Display to have an impact.

2. Make sure you’re excluding the search engines’ display networks from these display buys so you actually serve ads to audiences based on behaviors, not search histories.

Not only will this properly leverage the investment for better results for Search, it satisfies the dilemma to grow brand awareness to a wide audience.

3. Ask for reports from your financial colleagues that compare year-over-year results (last year compared to this year). Monthly and quarterly comparisons will help you gauge how your investments are doing.

The results of your organization – including yours – are measured in dollars. That’s where Return on Investment will help you develop your brand as not just the marketing genius you are, but as the trusted financial advisor who leverages the company’s working capital.


(1) “Do Display Ads Influence Search? Attribution and Dynamics in Online Advertising”, Working Paper 13-070, Sunil Gupta, Pavel Kireyev, Koen Pauwels, February 9, 2013,