Audience-Targeting Options Go Unused, @d:tech Panelists Say

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NEW YORK -- Various tools exist for advertisers and publishers to focus their online ad campaigns on specific audience segments, from buying ads during specific times of the day to targeting ads only to users who fall into a demographic. But despite its promise, audience targeting remains little used in most ad campaigns, according to participants in two panels at the @d:tech New York conference yesterday.


"I'm surprised there hasn't been more pressure on the buy side," said Young Bean Song, director of analytics at ad server Atlas DMT. He estimated that 90 percent of advertisers had only dabbled in audience segmentation or had done none at all.


Instead of looking to target specific audiences, most ad deals still are done on a cost-per-thousand-impression basis, said Jeff Lanctot, vice president of media at interactive agency Avenue A.


For now, slicing an audience into discrete, targeted segments "exists more in concept," said Jason Heller, chief executive of agency Mass Transit Interactive.


"There's a whole lot of work the industry and publishers need to do to let marketers take advantage of this," he said.


The New York Times Digital has recorded successes in audience targeting with its "surround sessions" and wide-angle targeting. With surround sessions, an advertiser can buy all the impressions on the page during a user's entire visit. Likewise in wide-angle targeting and a similar offering from The Wall Street Journal Online, user behavior data are used to sell ad impressions against demographic data. Portals like Yahoo offer their own audience-targeting options.


"The only way publishers are going to sell more ads for more money is if they deliver more for advertisers," predicted Dave Morgan, chief executive of Tacoda Systems, which sells audience-targeting software to news publishers like USA Today.


USAToday.com offers audience segmenting based on site behavior, such as frequent visitors to the sports section, as well as demographics, based on site-registration data.


Heller predicted that audience targeting would catch on with advertisers in the near future, pushing publishers to deliver not just impressions but audiences.


"We're going to see a ton of consolidation because the [smaller] sites don't have the audience to support this," he said.


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