A space that’s been full of promise for the past few in the online advertising world is behavioral targeting. It’s actually probably been talked about far more than it’s been put into practice, but most studies and tests seem to show that it always provides much better results than showing users random ads.
Who’s been doing it? Well, Yahoo has been a leader due to all the data they have on a user as well as the massive reach, and a couple of ad networks with a focus on it are Tacoda and Revenue Science. You could make an argument that Google is doing behavioral targeting by showing you ads based on what you’re searching for, but I’m not sure it fits the standard definition perfectly.
The concept is great. You store data on users and where they go and what they do, then find them in other places and show them ads related to what they are interested in. The problem is that to work effectively companies end up needing a lot of data and a massive reach to find users they have information on in the right places to show them ads. It’s really been the primary reason that this type of targeting has been slow to pick up.
Now comes news that Microsoft is getting serious about it. I guess they’ve been testing it for over a year, but I was surprised that they weren’t already offering this to advertisers. After I got over that, I read an interesting post on HipMojo.com that theorizes that Microsoft will acquire an advertising network to expand it’s reach. Being that reach has been a problem for behavioral marketers, this seems to make sense. Especially when most people think AOL’s purchase of Advertising.com was a smart move for AOL. Who does HipMojo.com suggest they might acquire?
- Tribal Fusion
- Revenue Science
aQuantive is the operator of ad server Atlas DMT which is heavily used by agencies and large online advertisers. That could potentially provide a lot of reach in some ways, but Atlas has not been that known for having publisher relationships, although they recently acquired ad serving company Accipter which is more known to be an ad server for publishers.
Valueclick operates a number of businesses such as Commission Junction so it might be more than Microsoft needs if they’re looking for reach, but Valueclick’s ad network is one of the largest.
Tribal Fusion is more of a pure play network and may have a higher inventory quality than Valueclick, but it’s reach is most likely less.
Revenue Science and Tacoda are both leaders in behavioral targeting so that may make sense for technology reasons, but they also don’t have the reach of the larger players mentioned above.
Many interesting options, and it’s the first prediction I’ve seen that suggests Microsoft would acquire an ad network. In some ways I think it’s unlikely because Microsoft may figure they have the reach they need with all their properties, but I’m not sure they really do on the level they need to make it work. I’m not sure advertisers are thinking of going to Microsoft today as much as Microsoft would like, and maybe an acquisition like this would make them more of a player in the online advertising space.