Understanding Behavioural Marketing Software

I work for a small independent publishing company. The company is privately owned and we often use less traditional means to promote both our print and online publications. So it was not a big surprise when I was contacted by an account manager for a new behavioral marketing service. The company is called Soho Digital International and they have a number of market leading companies as their clients, including Dell, T-Mobile, Hotels.com, Match.com and Travelocity. They are located overseas, not really sure how this effects privacy laws, and associated with Direct Revenue and the Best Offers Network.

My understanding of Behavioral Marketing was limited to how ads can be displayed on a website, based on the users behaviour or interest in web content. I was notfamiliar with the Behavioral Marketing software so I visited the Soho Digital website for a description:

“Behavioral marketing works from a simple idea: that consumers will consent to viewing targeted ads in exchange for free software for their computers.”

The key question here is really consent, how does a consumer consent to receive ads on their computer? The answer is that user downloads some software, usually for some other intent, and the software records where they go and what they do online. The software also provides the mechanism to display a pop-up ad based on the user’s behavior online.

This leads to the next question, which software includes this behavior recording and ad display? The answer isn’t easily available on the Soho Digital site but by visiting the Best Offers Network you can see some of the partner software. They include the following:

* Eliminate Spam

* Luke the Screenwasher

* Smiley Source

* ID Theft Radar

* Sam Free Skype Radar

* Record-n-Rip

* Mahong

* Atomic Clock

Each of these software packages includes a EULA ( End-User License Agreement ) that is about 6 pages long. I believe the most relevant statement in the EULA is :

“This Software will collect information about websites you access and will use that information to display advertising on your computer.”

I think this makes the intent of the software fairly clear but it does assume the user reads the EULA. Its fairly well known that most users do not read the EULA and just click NEXT, NEXT… through the installation. There is very little information outside of the EULA on the software’s behaviour and the user has no control over what information is provide and when ads can be displayed.

So exactly how exactly does the Behaviour Marketing component work? My account manager at Soho assures me that there are several options to position my advertising.

* Targeted URLs

When a user goes a target website, presumably a competitor, the software can launch a popup with my website displayed. Is there any limit to the number of URLs? Not really, it depends on how many the advertiser is willing to pay for.

* Key Word Based

Its also possible to have your ad displayed when the user starts entering data related to certain key words, either in the URL string or on web page forms. Is there any limit to keywords? No, not really it depends on the how much the advertiser is willing to pay.

* Time Based

If I have a time sensitive promotion, for example an election, err.. time limited sale. I can display my ad on periodic basis for a a given time period. For example if I have a time sales special going on for a month, I could have my ad displayed every day when the user starts their web browsers. Is there any limit to the sales period or the display interval? No, depends on the advertiser again but the account manager doesn’t recommend displaying the ad repeatedly more often than every 15 minutes. Can you imagine getting the same ad every 15 minutes?

Targeting a demographic with this Behavioral Marketing system is not really possible. Soho can isolate customers to a particular geographic area though. In my case they would even be able to provide my ads only to customers in the Province of Ontario, Canada.

Conclusion

Soho claims to have 25 million users of that can receive their Behavioral Marketing advertising. While it can be tempting for small companies, and even large ones like Dell, do use Behavioral Marketing Software I don’t believe it’s the path to customer loyalty. Ultimately I don’t believe you’ll attract meaningful customers by annoying them with unexpected advertising.

Colin Smillie has extensive technical experience gained at several leading Internet, wireless and security providers in Canada and Asia-Pacific. He studied Electrical/Mechanical Engineering at the University of Ottawa and Computer Electronics in Ontario, and has been able to translate this technical expertise into the classified media industry for Trader Media Corporation. His current role as Product Manager of Automotive Products involves product development, competitor analysis and advertising performance tracking and search engine optimization, as well as alliance-building with third parties. He speaks fluent French, good Japanese and enjoys designing computer games in his spare time.