A quick review of recent articles concerning online marketing reveals that seven in ten deal with some form of targeting. Behavioral targeting, contextual targeting, geo-targeting, demographic targeting...you name it, there's a targeted label for it! This meme is so strong that media pioneer Jeff Einstein suggests we are more interested in targeting than we are in marketing.
So is this article just more of the same? Sort of…but with a twist. Let me suggest that in an on-demand universe, the time has come for advertisers and marketers to stop targeting their audiences and let their audiences target them instead. But before we get to the pragmatic hows, let's ask:
WHY should your audience target you?
For starters, it's only logical. When you deconstruct the search process you realize it's the audience -- not the advertiser -- that's doing the searching. For that matter, what difference does it make WHERE the search begins? What's important is where it ends up. For example, let's say you're Zappos and you're looking to attract people searching for shoes. Regardless of where they begin their search, if they end up at Zappos, they have in effect targeted you.
By letting your audience target you, you allow common sense to prevail over the mountains of indecipherable data and specious behavioral algorithms that, truth be told, only serve to reveal precisely why you fail to engage -- and often repel -- your "target" more than 99% of the time!
By letting your audience target you, the advertising environment is transformed from one of contention to one of cooperation. In Bernbachesque terms, this engagement of the audience on its own terms creates the coveted and essential "environment to buy".
By letting your audience target you, a more comfortable relationship ensues. The pursuer becomes the pursued in a marketing mating dance where you encourage the audience to take the lead. They come to you because they WANT to.
By letting your audience target you, you invite them into your online home. And on your home turf, you dictate the décor, you decide what to serve, you are the gracious host. A :15 pre-roll or banner ad that is largely ignored simply can't – and doesn't – compare.
Given the above, the value in letting your audience target you would seem obvious. Just as our founding fathers viewed the truth that "all men are created equal" to be self-evident, they still saw the necessity to proclaim that truth in the Declaration of Independence. I think they knew that self-evident truths are often anything but.
Let's now move from the conceptual "why" of audience search -- a basic need to know -- to the pragmatic "how" that need can best be satisfied.
To begin a campaign whereby your audience targets you, it is critical that you first understand exactly whom -- age, gender, sensibilities, etc. -- you want pursuing you. It's taken for granted that you know this and aren't merely caught up in another self-evident truth. Armed with the cogent information, you must now lure your audience into your lair. Romance them. Seduce them. Engage them. Invite them in. Do not fall prey to algorithmic erudition. Do not be sweet talked by the quants. Embrace instead a new language that articulates your schwerpunkt (weight of effort or focus of intention); one that communicates the essential dynamics of a healthy brand/consumer relationship.
To this end, we'd all be well-advised to heed some very basic lessons learned in the golden ages of radio and television, when content was king and advertisers controlled their own destinies. This is exactly what we strive for with our own business model when we use proven content as the honey that attracts the bees.
We begin this process through strategic placement of thumbnail links to popular TV and movie clips across a broad spectrum of the more than 20,000 websites in our video ad network. Viewers who click on a thumbnail are transported to a paying advertiser's website where an embedded video player launches the chosen clip (the operative word is chosen). In so doing, we tap viewer predisposition on behalf of our advertisers and reverse the roles in the traditional "targeting" paradigm. The hunter becomes the hunted. The pursuer becomes the pursued. The advertiser becomes the target.
I cannot stress this enough: It is not the website that is all-important, it is the search itself. The search creates the self-selection process. It identifies the hand raiser if you will. With video, the type of content determines and segments the audience. A Liberace video clip will yield a different viewer than a Kanye West clip. Through careful attention to the causal connections between 1) audience and content, and 2) content and advertiser, the process forges a genuine relationship between brand and consumer.
Research confirms that the audience doesn't care WHERE they view the content. The satisfaction is in the viewing, so when the right content is offered and chosen, and the viewing enjoyed on your site, you've essentially welcomed a satisfied guest into your home.
If we ask better questions we'll get better answers. By inverting the targeting paradigm advertisers will be compelled to think differently and new relationships will flourish. Creativity, seduction and romance will once again grace the marketing lexicon as the pursuer becomes the pursued, love-struck by Media Cupid's arrow.
About Jaffer Ali
Jaffer Ali is CEO of Vidsense, the Web's largest video advertising network. With more than 80,000 advertiser-friendly video clips licensed from major film and TV studios, the Vidsense network of more than 20,000 safe-for-work partner websites delivers millions of qualified visitors directly to advertiser websites on a pure Pay-Per-Click (PPC) basis. Vidsense is to Adsense what video is to print -- a far more engaging and compelling environment for consumers and advertisers alike.