Tim Frankcom – Good behaviour will reap rewards

Internet usage has now spread well beyond the digital generation. A recent survey of 600 retirees conducted by insurance firm AXA, found that browsing the web has now overtaken more traditional pastimes such as gardening.

Nearly half the survey respondents (45%) purchase travel over the Internet – making them a highly valuable audience for online travel operators. But where and how can you reach such a disparate group?

Traditionally, marketers have relied on advertising to target a wide demographic of users. This can then be enhanced by contextual advertising, where your adverts appear on websites alongside relevant content. Additionally, advertisers can reach users by demographics such as age and gender

The AXA survey goes on to reveal that research and communication are the cornerstones of web usage among this group. This is particularly evident at Yahoo! Travel – its research capabilities attract a mature demographic. So focusing your advertising on this part of the Yahoo! network is likely to be effective – albeit still a fairly general approach.

In an ideal world, we would be able to target individuals. We would know that two users in their 60s (let’s call them Michael and Peter) are both active Internet users and we would know they had a particular interested in travel and sport when they registered for their e-mail accounts. Internet networks, which offer a range of services, can gather this and much more information on users based on the range of services they use.

Now, let’s say Peter has been checking out the match fixtures for the 2007 Cricket World Cup, is an avid user of an Ashes blog and is a keen contributor to a Scottish cricket fans group. Also, let’s say, Michael has been searching for diving centres. He also clicked on an ad for a beginner’s PADI course running in Birmingham and has downloaded a map to the centre.

To date, the challenge has been how we can use this data to help our advertisers. Certainly Yahoo! would recommend serving a relevant ad for flights to the Caribbean for Peter and a diving holiday ad for Michael. However, there is still significant chance of untargeted advertising: we don’t know where Michael wants to dive (if he actually wants a diving holiday at all) and we don’t know if Peter has any intention of travelling to watch the cricket.

Fortunately, there is now a new and highly effective way of reaching your target market – behavioural targeting.

While not a new term in the world of advertising, in the online world it enables companies with a range of services to offer advertising in a more sophisticated manner. While Yahoo! has a policy of always protecting its user’s personal data, we’re now able to anonymously track their online activity and serve them with targeted advertising based on their recent interests and behaviour.

As consumers are increasingly bombarded by advertising messages, and as expectations of relevance increase, the need for personal and pertinent advertising becomes greater.

By combining mass user data and individual behaviour patterns, we now have the ability to reach consumers with the right message at the right time and at the right rate for the advertiser.

Going back to Michael. Now, when he compares prices on underwater cameras and views pages on Egypt within Yahoo! Travel, we now know that it’s the right time to serve an ad for Red Sea diving holidays departing from Birmingham. Likewise, for Peter the best time to offer an ad for flights from Scottish airports to St Kitts in March is when he searches for flights to the Caribbean.

As competition for search terms and media placements rises, these new opportunities, which have proven to be successful, can be executed to maximise an advertiser’s return on investment.

Tim Frankcom is general manager for Yahoo! Travel Europe

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