DoubleClick Follows Engage With New Profiling Technology

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Online ad services company DoubleClick Inc. debuted this week anonymous profiling technology for ad targeting that it claims is similar to that of rival Engage Media.

Dubbed Intelligent Targeting InMarket Segments, the new service is available on DoubleClick's Sonar Network, which consists of 624 lower traffic sites divided into 34 categories, including automobiles, travel, careers, music, consumer technology and small business.

The Sonar Network accounts for approximately 1 billion ad impressions per month, according to DoubleClick, New York.

Intelligent Targeting InMarket Segments comes four months after DoubleClick, in the midst of a privacy firestorm, suspended a plan to merge catalog buying data from its Abacus Direct database with anonymous user activity across the Internet for ad profiling.

DoubleClick concedes it may be a little late in the anonymous profiling game -- Engage debuted its profiling technology last October -- but contends its system is more accurate.

"We bring a system to market that is faster and more efficient than Engage's," said Andy Jacobson, general manager of the Sonar Network.

The Sonar profiling system updates its cookie or tracking data every seven days, said Jacobson, while Engage's technology updates data every 30 days.

"Recency of information is most important to advertisers. It allows them to determine what the consumer is interested in right now," said Jacobson, who declined to say how many anonymous profiles DoubleClick has or expects to compile.

Engage, however, contends its profiling system is more complete.

"I agree that recency is an important variable in advertising, but we also focus on frequency and duration," said Lyn Chitow Oakes, president of Engage Media, Waltham, MA. She also said that Engage updates its consumer profiles every time a consumer visits a new site on the network.

"Recency of updates varies based on type of data. For example, we know that the auto-buying cycle is six weeks and we update targeting to auto consumers based on that," said Daniel Jaye, chief technological officer and co-founder of Engage.

Engage places cookies in computer hard drives to monitor Web surfers' clicking behavior. It then scores their interests in 800 marketing categories on a recency, frequency and duration basis.

The idea is that as someone gets closer to buying a car, for example, he will visit auto-related sites more frequently and the visits will last longer, resulting in a higher score in that category. Once he buys the car, his behavior will change and his auto-related scores in the Engage Knowledge database will drop accordingly.

Engage claims its database comprises anonymous profiles of the surfing behavior of about 72 million Internet users.

Intelligent Targeting InMarket Segments tracks user behavior by recording keyword data. When a user types the keywords "banking," "mortgage" or "insurance" on a financial site in the Sonar Network, for example, DoubleClick will serve that consumer ads based on those specific interests.

Although Jacobson concedes that tracking purchasing behavior would be the most valuable form of profiling, he said that DoubleClick is currently unable to perform that type of profiling because it can only be achieved by collecting personally identifiable information. Until standard rules are established regarding the collection of PII, DoubleClick will not overstep that boundary, he added. The firm is in the early stages of developing purchasing-behavior tracking in the opt-in e-mail marketing area, said Jacobson, who declined to elaborate.

Previous to this new anonymous profiling service, DoubleClick only offered run-of-site and run-of-category advertising placement. "With run-of-category targeting, an advertiser could try to target consumers interested in business by running an ad on a business site, but the advertiser wouldn't know if the consumer is in the market for those specific services at that point in time," Jacobson said. "Now we can buy where users are raising their hands," he added.

DoubleClick claimed that by serving ads based on profiling, an advertiser can achieve 60 percent more click throughs than through run-of-category targeting.

"Based on our clients' experiences, profile-based advertising usually performs higher than run-of-category ads," said Christopher Todd, analyst in the online advertising strategies group at Jupiter Communications, New York. Jupiter does not have hard statistical data on profile-based advertising vs. run-of-category ads, he added.

Under the rate card, Sonar charges advertisers $18 per thousand impressions for run-of-category ads and $12 CPM for run-of-site ads. Jacobson said the profile-based ads will cost roughly $25 CPM, while advertisers that choose to package an ad arrangement by running profiled ads, run-of-site and run-of-category ads will be charged slightly less than $25 CPM because of the higher volume of ads served.

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