Goodbye demographic and contextual targeting

Rebecca Weeks Watson · October 15, 2009 · Short URL:

Peerset offers psychographic targeting that touches interested audiences with precision

Once upon a time, media teams bought broad categories of audiences in the hopes that a portion of these groups would be interested in the ad’s message or product. Then they turned to content and started buying keywords, which unleashed bidding wars and worries about online media becoming a commodity. Behavioral targeting flew in with angels' wings, and media buyers wanted its benefits but refused to pay a premium for it or build the infrastructure to standardize the process.

 Today, we understand we need an innovative-targeting approach.

A company I’ve been following, called Peerset, thinks it has the perfect proprietary data tool to provide psychographic recommendations and ad placement.

(Peerset’s Twitter feed provides daily posts consisting of random connections such as, "Did you know people who like BMW also like Armani and Miami?" Some connections may surprise you.) 

The company’s focused and confident CEO, Mike John Baptiste, has been putting the finishing touches on the company's product set, expanding the marketplace for customers and partners, and seeking additional investment capital for future growth. With his 14 years of technology and investment banking experience, it seems he’s poised for success.

Watson: Your proprietary technology provides marketers with better information about their target audience. Exactly what kind of information? And how do they use it to improve their campaign effectiveness?

Baptiste: Peerset’s technology does two primary things: it will find users that have explicitly affirmed their interest in a brand or brand category and deliver them relevant ads; and the technology can also discover a more complete set of psychographics that describe the person in a target audience and find those users that were most likely missed using other targeting methods.

Our system architecture can solve a major business problem: we take input data from highly structured formats to highly unstructured formats and extract interest/psychographic elements. We use those elements to produce interest connections and audience segments. Peerset takes on the entire universe of interests, which is what we refer to as psychographics.

Marketers and ad networks can use Peerset to reach their audience with precision (touching only users that demonstrate interest) and to reach larger relevant audiences whose psychographics are aligned with their campaigns. We provide marketers with better information about their target audience and help them connect through display advertising, both inside and outside of social networks.

Watson: Until now, why has it been so difficult to compile psychographic information?

Baptiste: Frankly, I’m not sure why. Marketers have used psychographics as a key lever in customer segmentation for offline marketing for a very long time. Companies like comScore and Nielsen have set a standard around demographic targeting and have made it very easy for advertisers to use their research tools to find the most appropriate sites, so now marketers at ad agencies have gotten used to planning that way. The disruptive technology that makes psychographics so relevant is the advent of Web 2.0 and the popularity of social media, social networks and the comfort levels users now have around sharing details about their interests with friends and with the public as a whole.

We‘ve spent the last three years performing scientific research to understand how people's ideas, thoughts and opinions join together, and what assumptions can be made about how their explicit expressions of interest translate into related actions.

Watson: How do other targeting methods miss potential consumers?

Baptiste: Most targeting methods that I am aware of are based solely on what is known at that time. Behavioral targeting is a great innovation that has consistently fallen short of marketer expectations because the size of the relevant and targetable audience is informed by actions. Contextual and keyword targeting is informed by the marketer’s choice of words or content categories they’ve deemed relevant, based on intuition and, to some degree, experience with other campaigns.  Even some of the targeting efforts by the high profile social networks can be reduced to keyword or aggregated interest-based segments that are based solely on what users have listed as interests in their profiles. All of these methods have the same effect of delivering highly targeted ads, but sadly, they’re only reaching small audience segments that don’t move the dial enough for large advertisers. 

We’ve filed patents on the method we developed to expand upon explicitly stated interests to produce a significantly larger, but still highly relevant audience segment, and we give marketers the opportunities to increase or reduce the audience expansion based on their campaign goals.

Watson: What are some of the responses from executives at social networks to whom you’ve presented?

Baptiste: The revenue arms of the social networking companies we talk to or partner with like us because we bring advertising to their platforms that will succeed. The brands then attribute the success of these programs to the social network, while Peerset is behind the scenes determining the right users to receive the display ads. We expect that our partners will use us to optimize their own inventory in addition to our current model, where we deliver agency-led campaigns to their platforms.

Watson: What’s your revenue model?

Baptiste: We earn a fee either from the advertiser or the social or ad network, depending on the source of the ad campaign.

Watson: Anything else you’d like to add?

Baptiste: I think it’s really important to understand the history of this company, which I joined earlier this year. I believe that we have benefited from our newness to the advertising industry in that we built a product that was fully focused on people—the users of the Internet—and advertising became a natural application for our concept.

Peerset’s original ideology was rooted in extending human creativity through the discovery of hidden, yet intrinsic, connections between disparate concepts. An effort couched in the premise that a creative leap occurs when two seemingly unconnected ideas are brought together and resonate and now this has all come together with our first commercial product—a powerful tool for marketers. And it’s not just for targeting but also for influence. Advertisers and their partners will see significant improvement in the efficiency of their campaigns and find new users and markets to promote their brands.  We’re very excited about accelerating the shift away from demographics as a proxy for marketers getting to their ultimate goal, and that is to discover whether a specific person based on their full set of attributes is right for their message and what exactly that message should be to have the greatest impact.

People like to find out about new things that actually interest them, and for the user, seeing advertisements that are truly relevant, and often unexpected, will lead to a better experience for the user and a huge increase in click-through rates for publishers.

Watson: The technology sounds incredible. How can people learn more?

Baptiste: We’ve created a simple interactive tool on the homepage. I suggest that those who are interested in working with us (or frankly, just for kicks) you should go on there and discover what things may be connected attributes or psychographics. It’s a new way to experience discovery, and it’s completely free to see a little piece of our system.

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