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3 Reasons Intent-Based Ads Are The Next Big Thing


by Kathy Leake

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Online advertising has a checkered history. It seems like a roller coaster of innovation.

Banner ads were first on a new platform, but didn't perform that well. Then Google perfected search, and digital advertising hit pay dirt because marketers, for the first time, could truly target specific words by intent thanks to sponsored search results. 

Since then we’ve experienced the second wave of banner ads, this time on mobile devices. Same problem. Banner ads don't have good enough targeting, so once again we have a major audience, but no true way to target any of them outside of search. 

We are finally at the point of the next great revolution in digital ads. It involves, to no one's surprise, looking at the massively popular and overhyped social data layer. 

There are certainly lots of great data to mine, but no one, including major social networks, has a true ability to target based on intent. Surely Facebook and, to some extent, Twitter have figured out how to target groups based on likes or tweet terms, but the true “a ha” moment in targeting is when marketers will be able to analyze social data and target exact consumers based on what they express. 

Enter The Rise Of Intent-Based Advertising
As social media evolves and bringing with it the element of converged communication where all of our devices are connected to one another (from mobile, to PC, and tablets), there’s a huge opportunity to deliver specific ads tailored toward user behaviors and expressed intent over these channels.

If you’re a marketer or advertiser, and still not a believer, then here are three main reasons why intent-based advertising is the biggest innovation since search-based ads.

Reason #1: Intent based ads means better targeting by context.
All other types of targeting out there are an approximation, whether it’s behavioral, demographic, or social–it’s all a guess.

With intent data, advertisers and brands can target users based on social-contextual data (i.e. where they say it, when they say it, as well as what they are saying). This real-time ability to target users based on specific context, whether that’s a check-in, posting a picture on Instagram, or broadcasting a location over Twitter, holds a tremendous advantage for brands.

In some cases, as with our bigger retail, entertainment, and CPG clients, they’ll see engagement rates of up to 60 percent to 70 percent when targeting against this data set.

Contextual ads mean an advertiser has an opportunity to have direct communication with a potential customer. So no matter whether they broadcast explicitly on Foursquare, such as “I’m at Walgreens,” or implicitly on Twitter, such as “Heading out to buy some new shoes,” there is a local call to action that they can respond to and benefit from in real-time.

Reason #2: Access to Big Data on social networks means that this new level of targeting can lead to higher engagement and more loyal customers.
Being able to target users based on unique and large data sets on intent expressed on social networks is guaranteed to maximize engagement. Simply put, there is no stronger signal in advertising.

If you look at Facebook alone, it is sitting on tons of data it hasn’t really leveraged yet. And when a user checks in, it becomes a social activity and statement about what one is doing, and users are doing this multiple times a day.

The more information you have, the better you will be able to identify what motivates and interests that user–leading to better segmentation and more effective campaigns, which can now be tailored to increase short-terms sales opportunities as well as building long-term customer loyalty.

Targeting based on huge amounts of data can be especially helpful in brick-and-mortar settings, which is the Holy Grail for retailers. The added advantage here is that it could help retailers tailor coupons and rewards programs on specific interest and behaviors in order to prevent and reduce showrooming.

Reason #3: Cross-platform reach engages customers regardless of digital device.
Today’s mobile and PC users have very different communication habits from those just five years ago. What this means if you’re a brand or advertiser is that you should be thinking of social, local, and mobile all under the same roof, and have a solid understanding of how activity on the PC translates to mobile and vice versa.

There should no longer be separation between mobile and Web campaigns; they should be integrated. Think of how often Web-enabled devices are used to aid consumers in their offline purchasing decisions.

In the same way that social behaviors can be expressed just as easily on mobile as on a PC, offers and loyalty rewards programs should be geared toward helping facilitate purchases no matter where that customer resides.

What’s Next?
Taking intent data to another level, the industry is on the verge of closing the loop on converting people at POS on mobile. What this means is that in a very short time, we will likely see integrations with real-time targeted ad networks and POS systems. So targeted ads could be displayed against intent data sets, which would drive users to a mobile landing page where discounts could be taken at the cash register.

Make no mistake: Intent data is already proving to be the next big thing in advertising. If brands can leverage this new level of social data and reach every digital platform, then we will see the step-up in digital ads that hasn’t happened since search.

About Kathy Leake

Kathy Leake is the president and founding partner of Local Response, a company that provides marketers with the ability to reach consumers across multiple location-based services in real time via mobile devices. Before that, she was a founder and chief revenue officer at Media6Degrees, a social targeting company that took the market and drove to $20 million in revenue and $100 million valuation in two years.