Web advertisingA talk on a mode of Web advertising the other day by someone who works in a company that deals in it was quite interesting. The mode he talked about, "behavioural" advertising was dubbed by him as a 3rd method of web advertising. The first two presumably being ads placed on "premium" locations on web pages (such as say, the main page of Rediff's portal, where almost everyone using Rediff services is sure to visit) and the other being ads generated based on the content of the page being viewed (Google's AdSense works this way - if you glance up on this blog, the ads you'll see there would be somewhat relevant to some key content on these pages). The former mode is essentially static, and works the same way as ads inserted in newspapers or featured on TV. It is generic, and aims to catch as many "eyeballs" as possible, and doesn't target specific individuals. The second is dynamic and probably works on the notion that if you visit a page containing the words "price" + "car" + "used", that you are looking to purchase old cars, and some s/w will pick an ad from its pool to feature on that page. It's dynamic because the page contents itself are likely to be dynamic.
Behavioural advertising goes further in this domain, trying to discern user habits and specialising the choice of ad to be relevant to a particular, specific user. If all these blogs (as they probably are) were monitored for patterns of movement among the links etc, some database would record that I am interested in reading about cricket and movies and quizzing, and could pick an ad showing me some attractive offers on movie CDs. Further, it could find a group of fellow bloggers who have similar interests, enrich its data and show them such ads as well. This does need some more infrastructure behind the sites, but it means more effective selling. There are several layers to this, but essentially it follows the same set of general principles used by the "offline" advertising world.
There were a few questions in my mind. Creating awareness of the product by carefully placed ads made sense, in the same way (as the speaker mentioned) a soft drink maker shows ads at primetime, or at important road junctions (in fact, he used "Vanilla Coke" in the US to illustrate his point, and coincidentally, one of the first ads I saw at home later that day was the new Vivek Oberoi "retro-ad" for the same). Web Publishers are paid depending on how many times that page with the ad was visited (which seems to be a different method of payment than in other media where the agency estimates that X amount of people will watch this show and hence the ad should be placed there - if for some inexplicable reason, too few people actually do, they wouldn't probably get value for money - but they would be wiser next time of course) and/or the number of times a user actually clicked and went through to more details, even a real sale. I don't understand how the advertiser actually ensures the publisher doesn't fleece him by artificially inflating web log stats by hitting the site. But the bigger problem as I see it is has web advertising become credible enough for "click-throughs" to happen? Personally, I tend to distrust any advertising I see on the Web, perhaps it is because it is just a statement by someone anonymous, or because of awareness of scam & spam, or because I haven't really tried it yet, or just because I haven't adjusted to the new medium yet. The speaker mentioned how Web advertising presently is only 10%-15% of the complete advertising pie, but unless I, as a Web user, can be rid of my inhibitions towards it, it'll still remain more as a medium of brand-introduction rather than an actual sales point for me.