Behaviorally targeted ads work better out of context: Study

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Contrary to most traditional media buying practices, recent research suggests that ads may work better when displayed out of context.

Overall conversion rates for behaviorally targeted ads shown out of context was 19 percent higher than behaviorally targeted ads shown in context in a recent study by BL Labs, research division of BlueLithium, an ad network. Overall click-through rates were also higher in ads served out of context.

"When most advertisers start to target they may use pre-canned categories," said Dave Zinman, senior vice president of products at BlueLithium, San Jose, CA. "The industry should work on freeing up that process and changing technology to be more flexible to the response a particular campaign is getting."

The study compared the performance of behaviorally targeted ads shown in context versus out of context in terms of click-through rates and conversions across more than 400 million impressions from various Web sites and campaigns.

Although the weighted average of the data suggested an overall pattern in support of out-of context behavioral ads, results varied when particular campaigns, user behavior, offer and creative were taken into account. Nine behavioral categories that had over 10 million impressions were analyzed for patterns when looking across various contextual categories.

"As direct marketers we tell our clients that you really need to run your business according to the bottom line," Dakota Sullivan, chief marketing officer of BlueLithium.

Mr. Sullivan said only by carefully tracking results and constantly adjusting campaigns based on user behavior and response can direct marketers refine the best results.

Consumers are in unique buying stages for a variety of product categories at any given time. Leveraging this data against digital technology leads to optimized response rates.

"The Internet is a fabulous medium to track exactly what the impact of your advertising is," Mr. Zinman said.

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