Yesterday I attended DM2’s ad networks and audience targeting mini-conferences, Digiday Networks and Digiday Target (Twitter #digiday), part of Internet Week here in New York. Both conferences consisted of panels delving into the directions ad networks and behavioral targeting are headed in this time of tightened online ad spend and the growing specter of consumer backlashes over privacy.
The biggest question tackled by panelists in Networks was the fate of the 400-600 (?) ad networks that currently serve up a fragmented market today. Cases were made for their consolidation and buyout by agencies and larger networks, as well as their continued proliferation. Mark Zagorski of the behavioral targeting data exchange Exelate argued that a shakeout has been predicted for quite some time, but still hasn’t happened–an increasingly fragmented ad market continues to serve increasingly fragmented media. Because audience behavior continues to be fine-tuned, ad networks that can deliver the specific audiences advertisers are looking to target will command higher prices, while those without granular audience information will earn less. And, increasingly, audiences are meaning specific purchasing behaviors and stages within the buying process rather than conventional demographic slices, although, according to Amanda Kanaga of Time Warner, agencies are still not yet asking for them.
When it comes to bridging the “data gap” between data providers and agencies, the onus is on the data providers to not only deliver data relevant to advertisers, but also provide the means to apply data-driven insights to media buying and campaign analytics and ROI measurement. Unilever’s Jim Keyt said he was interested in “solutions,” not just data.
There was surprisingly little discussion about privacy concerns and the threat of government regulation of data ownership and use outside Stephen Baker’s (BusinessWeek columnist and author of The Numerati) keynote. However, a speaker argued that the issue goes far beyond online advertising, noting that his supermarket loyalty card probably has more private information about his buying behavior than his ISP.
One of the most interesting startups I heard of was MetricMesh. I spoke with its CEO, Shah Ullah, who explained how the company is aggregating cross-device audiences in order to plan campaigns across media as different, but complementary, as online, mobile and television. Agencies and advertisers can target MetricMesh publishers who can serve ads to audiences that have displayed the sort of behavior across TV viewing, Web site and mobile usage patterns. Interesting stuff!