Of all the algorithmic gee-whizzery currently available to online marketers, behavioral targeting always strikes us as the most dubious tool in the utopian automation kit.
We recently moved even closer to being convinced BT is mostly a con when we learned, in a chance airport meeting, that a well known company requires premium ad buys in its network to include a certain percentage of behaviorally targeted traffic.
There could hardly be better evidence that behavioral targeting’s effectiveness is questionable than having companies bundle it with premium buys.
(Film studios pull a similar move with movie rental companies. Want to buy Inception and True Grit? No problem. You just need to take Revenge of Crap II: The Crappening and ten other titles that are only making it to DVD because we can make you buy them.)
Theoretically, behavioral targeting makes sense, its segmentation 2.0 -
aggregate some data points, makes some assumptions about the user. But is always just that – assumptions based on historical data and there is simply too much noise in the channel.
Following the airport meeting, we have a new theory. Behavioral targeting is being used as an online media philosophers stone. The media alchemists are using it to turn remnant traffic lead into premium traffic gold. Take your unsalable inventory, wave the BT magic wand over it and – presto – premium traffic.
(Wall Street has their own version of this. It is called a Collateralized Debt Obligation)
Alchemy’s success in perfecting transmutation is well known. There is still a lot of lead out there.
A variant of a familiar aphorism is apt when it comes to remnant traffic: A hog in a silk waistcoat is still a hog.