Going once, going twi…too late! Smoked by Real-time bidding.

Stopwatch and Money

In less than 100 milliseconds, Real-time bidding (RTB) initiates and completes the process to deliver a single online ad exposure via programmatic auction to the viewer.

100 milliseconds. How fast is that? In 134 milliseconds, light can travel around the Earth’s equator, and it takes 200 milliseconds for the human brain to recognize emotion in facial expressions.[i]

We explained the role of data-driven user profiles in “Stop guesstimating and get with the program” as the key to precise audience targeting in large scalable quantities for programmatic display campaigns.

Now consider that Real-time bidding is a per impression auction for those campaigns.

When someone visits a Web site – while the page is being loaded into the user’s browser window – the site publisher sends a bid request for each of the display ad slots available to one or more ad exchanges. The ad exchange submits the details for each slot to multiple advertisers who submit their bids in real time. The winners’ ads are then displayed in the banner and other slots when the page is loaded…all in less than 100 milliseconds.

RTB and User Profile data-driven targeting work in tandem to deliver ever-increasing ROI for the campaign budget over the duration of the campaign.

The criteria that created the high-value User Profile target audience can dictate whether to bid and the value of the bid. As viewers click on ads, user and campaign data are updated, and that information, in turn, improves the performance of the next ad to be bid and served.

Since multiple RTB exchanges (and there are dozens) serve bid opportunities simultaneously, data management platforms have emerged that centralize these bid calls. At the same time, the growth of centralized User Profiles of first hand, online history for millions of anonymous users – you and me – means the best campaigns can find us and show us the ads that match us ever-more precisely.

This is where size matters to our campaign outcomes. The more first hand data in the Profiles and the more RTB exchanges available in those 100 milliseconds, the better our ROI.

Access to this size is not the exclusive province of the largest advertisers and their agencies. Any business that has significant expenditures in print, broadcast, or digital should be re-balancing their mix of channels to test and include this combination of User Profiles and Real-time bidding. The more data in the profiles and the more simultaneous auctions you’re in, the better you’ll do.

Otherwise, your business could end up, “Going once! Going twice! Gone!”

[i] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millisecond


Getting personal. The better you see your target, the better you’ll aim.

Getting personal

Of the various Internet targeting tactics, User Profile-based targeting has distinct advantages for hyper-targeting.

User profiles – the richer, the better – allow you to proactively target your message to those that have scored as more likely to have a personal affinity for what you send to them.

As more and more data can now be accumulated and analyzed in massive data sets, three trends are emerging:

  • Advertising dollars are continuing to shift from print, direct mail and broadcast to digital.
  • User Profile targeting is gaining share of wallet among SEO, Social and other digital tactics.
  • The time spent on handhelds like smartphones and tablets is surpassing laptops and desktop computers, so cross-device campaigns need User Profile data to reach each individual with the right message at the most receptive times.

Let’s be clear. We’re focused on mega-files of anonymous data. And because the user profiles are anonymous, SIZE MATTERS. The sheer number of profiles and the number of individual attributes within each profile affect what marketers want for a campaign.

  • How precise is my targeting?
  • Is my target audience large enough (scalable) to sustain the campaign?

Of course, not all User Profiles are created equal. So the QUALITY of the data also matters.

Because profiles are anonymous – and to get a little technical here – they are created from Deterministic and Probabilistic information gathered online and offline.

  • As marketers, we love Deterministic input. It’s real “hand-raising” action that, for example, tracks specific logins, purchasing history, browsing history, and downloads to reveal what the individual buys, cares about, and brand relationships of specificity and type.

Social Networks and Search Engines profiles are essentially created from Deterministic information.

  • We also like Probabilistic input because it infers information about the individual based on algorithmic modeling to match anonymous profiles to how, when and where the same user connects on different devices to serve ads in formats for the device. They also predict browsing behavior so our targeted ads can be displayed on sites the target likely visits.

Ad networks and data management platforms weigh in with more Probabilistic input to more precisely refine the profiles for better targeting.

  • How much is first party data? The more, the better.
    • First party data are what sets competing profilers apart.
    • How many attributes of first party data are in the user profiles?
  • How much is 3rd party data? Some 3rd party data is better than others.
    • Through affinity and partnership deals, advertisers share proprietary 1st party data to enrich user profiles on data management platforms with competitive safeguards for everyone.
    • There are also data collections of real anonymized people offered by 3rd party vendors. These are useful for demographics like age and gender.
    • How frequently is each Profile updated? Real time? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? This will become ever more critical to keep pace with viewers’ at-that-moment needs and competitors that reach them before you do.

So what’s a marketer to do? Here’s where your budget and results – your Bottom Line Metrics – come into play.

Generally speaking, the major sources for User Profile targeting differ on pricing and precision.

  • Search Engines and Social Networks maintain shallow data profiles on lots of users. And they leave the end-user with the task of combining these few targeting options to create the audience.

This allows do-it-yourself advertisers to create small budgets – usually starting at a few thousand dollars for a campaign.

  • Internet Advertising platforms and networks are designed to gateway people and advertisers. They also reach upwards of 100% of U.S. online users, but their profiles are much deeper to match their mission.

That’s how these service providers make their money, and because it’s so technical, they need to be in the process from start to finish. That’s why advertisers and agencies turn to them for campaign planning and execution from Audience development to Campaign delivery.

It’s shouldn’t be a surprise that larger budgets – starting in the low 5-figures – result from more sophisticated User Profile targeting.

And think about it. How different are those Business Development advertising scenarios from the pre-Internet era?

Some advertisers did it themselves. They knocked on doors, went to meetings, handed out business cards and flyers, and hung signs in their windows. To grow, they scaled up their locations and personnel to do more of the same.

Others budgeted bigger for broader reach by looking to publishers and broadcast networks to locate their audience and deliver their campaign. To grow, they scaled up their print quantities, circulations, and broadcast reach.

Finally, to see results, and gauge your campaign ROI, you need to be committed to a campaign for at least a couple of months with enough budget to serve enough exposures to get a response.

Want to hit more targets? Aim better with hyper-targeting.

Hyper-target to find your prospects

OK, so you’re targeting your direct mail, print, and local broadcast by zip codes or subscribers to magazines or newspaper readership or cable channel zones. That’s what you – and most other small and medium size businesses (SMB’s) – have done for decades to generate traffic and awareness that your doors are open.

The problem is that you know it’s so 20th Century and you have a sense about moving into the Digital Age, but you’re not sure where to begin.

Start with what you know: good marketing still means getting the right message in front of the right audience. Internet marketing offers clear alternatives to some of the massive dollars still being spent on direct mail, print and local broadcast.

With Internet advertising, your ad dollars are spent more efficiently by reaching more precise targets.

First and foremost, recognize that the Internet can gather better targeting information than the static traditional methods. Digital data is so widespread in our lives that it’s coined the term Big Data because of the volume, variety, and the velocity at which it’s generated.

Secondly, the best targeting begins with 100’s of millions of individual data profiles. The more characteristics/data points in each profile, the more precisely profiles can be selected and aggregated into targeted audiences with the means of reaching them based on their histories of where they go online.

The data is gathered from sources like your online registrations, cookies, and click/visit activities, plus what’s compiled from social platforms, blogs, sharing sites, Tweets, retail apps – even those cards you swipe at check-out for discounts – are analyzed and modeled for aggregation into very large hyper-targeted audience files for online display advertisers.

These huge troves of data are much more extensive than what search engines like Google or Bing can gather from user search histories. Search Engine Optimization/Search Engine Marketing is effective for reaching audience members that are specifically seeking something at the time, but that only scratches the surface of targeting.

Data-driven Online Display Marketing allows advertisers to create campaigns that serve their ads to large audiences, where and when the users that meet their customer profile will most likely see it.

The two strongest types of targeting are Behavioral Targeting and Contextual Targeting.

Behavioral Targeting uses profile information that is based on an individual user’s viewing behavior to target ads specific to their interests.

Contextual Targeting serves advertising messages based on content being viewed on an individual Web page. Contextual targeting can often be hyper-targeted geographically (Zip code, neighborhoods, cities…) because the content is often of a local context. Contextual targeting based on the Web page being viewed is also an excellent means for real-time targeting based on the viewer’s interests; e.g., vacation, sports, health and wellness…

If your advertising spend on print, direct mail, TV and cable is 10’s of thousands of dollars annually, you owe it to yourself to move some of those dollars into Internet display. Then you’ll have a mix of marketing channels that blends the new with the old.