From the digital technology we use to the personal data we submit, marketers can harness this information and marry it to smart digital solutions to create contextual media that delivers consumers the perfect message at the perfect time. From the time of day to the weather, your location or taste in music, contextual targeting allows brands to deliver media personalised on a level never seen before.
Growth in behavioural targeting has been on the up since 2010, with momentum gathering so fast that it is estimated to account for as much as half of the spend on online display in the UK. Technology now exists to retarget people who have shown an interest in products online but have not converted to a purchase and the latest advances in behavioural targeting can even focus on retargeting people when they are away from a particular website.
Whilst marketers continue with their efforts to provide truly personal brand engagement, the consumers themselves have adapted just as quickly to the change; just two years ago panel adverts based on users’ recent product search histories were the height of innovation, now they barely register a consumer response. The emerging trend in 2013 leans even further towards truly bespoke consumer engagement strategies, designed to offer the right product, to the right person, at exactly the right time.
Facebook’s latest offer in behavioural targeting has seen it outsource data providers including a partnership with Axicom, a company which aggregates data from a variety of sources, such as financial services companies, court records and federal government documents. The push to refine targeted advertising reflects the company’s need to increase its revenue. Its shares are worth far less than its ambitious initial public offering price and investors no doubt want to see it take concrete steps to prove to advertisers that it can show the right promotions to the right users and, more importantly, turn them into customers.
The boom in mobile apps also continues to open up new opportunities for application development services. Apsalar, a mobile analytics and behavioural targeting platform which sells itself as an advanced mobile analytics tool, can not only help developers understand what users are doing in their apps, but also allows them to target specific groups of users and deliver personalised content to them. According to a new research report from the analyst firm Berg Insight, the total value of the global real-time mobile location-based advertising and marketing is set to grow from 526 million in 2012 to 6.5 billion in 2017. This means that in two years location-based advertising and marketing will represent around 5 per cent of digital advertising.
Offline, the revolution continues. American Express recently launched a geo-targeted taxi ad campaign showing passengers of London’s black cabs advertisments relevant to the vehicle's location in the capital. Local theatre and entertainment venues popped up on screen in the West End whilst passengers near Gatwick, Heathrow and London City airports were served up last minute travel offers.
Whilst business may be booming for digital advertisers, there is growing customer sentiment against online behavioural targeting, exacerbated in part by fear-mongering terms such as ‘tracking’. No one wants to think they are being tracked whilst browsing the internet, especially if their search data is then paraded in front of their eyes from website to website.
This creates an interesting dilemma for marketers. There’s substantial evidence that consumers want and react well to relevant advertising, but are not comfortable with being ‘tracked’. Therefore, extending the reach of this approach and seeking to open up one-to-one discussions with people is of primary importance in the future. Behavioural targeting is not perfect, but it has immense potential to adapt and respond faster than any equivalent medium. In fact, during the time you’ve taken to read this, millions more pieces of data will have been collected and analysed for future predictions.
So where does the future lie for behavioural targeting and contextual media? In all honesty, consumers, particularly those of Gen Y, are beginning to expect personalised messages as standard from brands. Soon intelligence will exist to allow such a nuanced response to consumer behaviour that we’ll wonder what we ever did without it. It’s not too far-fetched to imagine that you can walk into a bar you follow on twitter and it will know you are there. What’s more exciting is that soon not only will it know this but by the time you get to the bar to make your order, your favourite drink will be ready and waiting for you. Equally, because their system also tracks the weather and it’s a hot summer’s day, the drink is Pimms rather than red wine. With this example it becomes quite clear that if used responsibility and intelligently, behavioural targeting can hugely improve not only the social media experience but equally the way we live our lives.