Campaign to Boost Banner Response by Integrating Real-World Data

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Intelligent Interactions hopes to prove that marketing with data gathered offline can increase response rates in cyberspace with a test advertising campaign for Preview Travel on The Motley Fool's Web site.


Intelligent Interactions' ad delivery software, Adfinity, matches online consumer data with information from third-party databases to enable online ad delivery by advertiser-specified demographic profiles. The test will begin Feb. 28.


As with any online ad-targeting firm, Intelligent Interactions' pay-off lies in more efficient ad buys for marketers and higher ad rates for Web site publishers. Chris Charron, an analyst at Forrester Research, Cambridge, MA, said that goal has yet to be reached.


"To date, the reality of one-to-one marketing on the Web has fallen far short of the promise," Charron said, adding that Intelligent Interactions "is on the right track in important but unproven territory."


Intelligent Interactions, Alexandria, VA, plans to use the Preview Travel campaign to show publishers and advertisers that it can ferret out desirable audience characteristics of a site's registered customer base and make it more attractive to advertisers than other sites with seemingly identical audiences, said Michael Rowsom, vice president of marketing.


"In terms of supply and demand, banners, [site inventories] are running heavily on the supply side right now," Rowsom said, "so the cost of banners is going to drop." Except, of course, on sites where companies such as Intelligent Interactions can boost response by helping them offer a more finely segmented audience.


By enhancing The Motley Fool's database of 100,000 registered users with consumer lifestyle clustering data from Claritas Inc., Intelligent Interactions has deemed three groups of The Motley Fool's database ripe for travel advertising:


* Travelers to Asia.


* Travelers to Europe.


* Those who travel to ski.


The campaign will employ four banners at www.fool.com. Half of each group will get a banner with an offer related to their respective travel habits. The other half will get a control banner with a generic travel offer. At press time, offer details hadn't been determined.


Rowsom said the campaign will run until it draws "a statistically valid sample" or about 1,000 responses, which he predicted will take between 150,000 and 200,000 impressions to get. If all goes according to plan, the groups receiving the targeted ads will click through them at a higher rate than those receiving the generic ads.


"We want to show that if you strip away the media, it's database marketing, plain and simple," Rowsom said.


"We look at this as an opportunity to put online advertising on a level playing field with traditional media," said Sheila MacKeigan, associate director of sales and marketing at The Motley Fool. "We thought bringing a recognized name [such as Claritas] to the table would help bigger traditional advertisers accept the Internet."


Daniel Hamburger agrees. He is vice president of Internet services at Metromail Corp., Lombard, IL, which owns a minority stake in online ad-targeting firm Imgis.


"Advertisers understand demographics and cluster systems," Hamburger said. By using Claritas data clusters, "you're speaking in the language of the advertiser rather than the language of the Net head."


Soraya Chemaly, senior vice president of marketing at Claritas Inc., Arlington, VA, said her company views the test as "an opportunity to illustrate the applicability of targeting, the efficacy of Internet advertising and the ability to carry an integrated marketing message into a new medium."


"These principles have worked in almost every medium you can think of," Chemaly said. "It's just a matter of application and technology."


MacKeigan said she doesn't view the campaign solely as a means for an ad-rate boost. However, she said, "if we can tell advertisers that we have a valid system of targeting people, it will eventually translate into more dollars."


Preview Travel operates a ticketing service on America Online and aol.com, a cobranded service with Excite and its own Web site at www.previewtravel.com.
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