Five questions for: Jeff Hirsch, CEO, Revenue Science
The behavioral targeting ad industry has been under fire recently with privacy advocates pushing for additional protections against online data tracking. The recent pullout of the US market by behavioral targeting firm Adzilla has had some saying the industry is too tricky to thrive. Jeff Hirsch, CEO of behavioral targeting ad network Revenue Science, recently spoke to DMNews about his take on the issue and about a recent Skechers campaign.
How do you explain behavioral targeting to those who don't know what it is?
Behavioral targeting is about understanding what consumers are interested in by observing some of their surfing behavior anonymously – and that's a key point to behavioral targeting. Through the information we are able to create a relevant experience when consumers are on sites. Relevance in behavioral targeting is usually done through ads that are consistent with what a consumer is looking for. Having relevant ads means a marketer is able to spend its money more efficiently and the consumer over time is likely to see a lot less ads. And, they maintain the free content they enjoy from publisher Web sites that are supported by advertising.
How does it work specifically?
We work with hundreds of publishers that we have specific agreements with – they place a pixel on their Web site and have privacy statements that inform their consumers that some tracking of their activity will take place. When the consumer goes to that Web site, a cookie is placed on that machine. Based on that cookie, we can understand what searches were made and use that information to create a temporarily stored profile that can be used to target ads. For example, a marketer will come to us to market an SUV – we're able to determine someone who is most likely in the market for an SUV, because they've read an article about SUV's, done a lease calculator, etc. That data, though, is only valuable and available for a limited about of time.
What is your opinion on the recent negative press about ad networks and behavioral targeting regarding privacy issues?
There are a couple of ad networks that basically closed up shop – one of them has been around for a long time. The reason both of them could no longer do business, I'd say, is because they were not doing a very good job of adhering to the standards of the NAI [Network Advertising Initiative] that protect consumers. If there is a shakeout here it's with companies that are not approaching privacy properly and we think that's great. That's the way it should be and will end up benefiting behavioral targeting overall.
Can you describe the recent campaign you did with Skechers?
It was specifically designed to drive sales specifically to skechers.com, and more specifically to target any lost conversions – people who did searches and did not purchase. We targeted people with ads who visited one of the 10,000 sites in the RSI network that had visited the Skechers site. Skechers uses that data to target them with appropriate ads to try and drive them back to the site. The return on ad spend was 827% over the course of the campaign, and Skechers shifted a larger percentage of their media buying into targeted advertising.
What do you see as the future of behavioral targeting in ad campaigns?
Targeting is becoming an essential and standard part of ad campaigns – it's not longer a premium, especially in tough economic times. You need to know that people to whom you are advertising are actually interested in what you are offering.