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Digital Advantage: Targeted display advertising

Jason Holmes By Jason Holmes

Dec. 25, 2013 at 6:25 a.m.

This is called targeted display advertising, and it's big, really big. Major retailers like Amazon, Wal-Mart, Overstock and Staples have been using it for years.

Targeted display advertising utilizes behavioral, geographic, platform and dozens of other factors to target advertising to the appropriate audience.

You may wonder where this information comes from. It's a complex question with many answers. But in its simplest form, it works like this: When a user executes a search and then ends up on a resulting page, that action can be identified to that user. For instance, if you search for "2014 Honda Accord" and then end up on an auto review site, you are very likely to be tagged as someone interested in that vehicle.

The more often you search for similar terms or competing products, the more likely you are to be tagged in such a way. The deeper you research, the more likely you are to become the target of advertising related to your behavior. This is called search retargeting.

If you visit a retailer's website and then begin to see advertising from that retailer, it's very likely that you're experiencing something called site retargeting. This is when a retailer identifies you as a site visitor who is interested in their products or services.

Locally, retailers are beginning to catch on to this type of targeting as well. You've probably noticed local retailer's advertising campaigns following you on national sites such as CNN, ESPN, Yahoo and other heavily trafficked or niche websites. These are targeted to you because you've been identified as someone accessing the Internet locally and having expressed interest in a product or service that an area retailer offers.

In the past few years, the playing field has leveled for area businesses. As mentioned, major retailers have used this type of advertising for years, but until recently, digital display campaigns using this level of sophistication required huge minimum buys, pushing their use out of reach for small- and medium-sized area businesses and giving the box stores and mega-shopping sites an unfair advantage.

The reason for this expense was that the data subscriptions and ad placement platforms were expensive and not geared toward area audiences at all.

However, starting about three years ago, the data collection process has become streamlined and less expensive for publishers and agencies to participate in while adding layers of geocoded and behavioral data to the mix. The targeting technology has become less expensive while providing more value to the local advertiser. Now, dozens of companies are competing to provide better targeting while improving efficiency.

So what does all of this mean to the area business trying to decide where to budget advertising and promotional dollars? It simply means that an advertising vehicle that has been proven to work - targeted display advertising - is available and cost effective.

For more about digital display retargeting, visit

Jason Holmes is the general manager of Advocate Digital Media, a sister company to The Victoria Advocate that focuses on digital marketing. He welcomes questions and column ideas at



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