Access to technology and big data are dramatically
changing the way marketing works today. The one-
to-many model is being replaced by a one-to-one
model, where marketers can virtually customize
their offerings to consumers. Behavioral Targeting
(BT) focuses on providing every user with a relevant
message based on the advertiser’s awareness of the
customer’s needs, interests and preferences.
With several years of BT experience, AdPeople
can provide insight into the creative development,
cost- and labor-efficient approaches available to
maximize this marketing strategy. We offer our
clients guidance in setting up the technology stack,
choosing media and tech partners, data manage-
ment and feed setup and management. Additionally,
we offer hosting and asset management.
Our experts can create the volume of messages
needed to effectively target individual users with
the most relevant messages while keeping offers
and messages up to date. In one example,
our BT strategy delivered a conversion rate of
27X and a 7X return on ad spend.
“Behavioral targeting improves the process of generating traffic and achieving
conversions because it customizes the customer experience and allows firms
to maintain consistency across all customer touch points.”
— Forrester Research
• What is Behavioral Targeting (BT)?............................................................................................... 3
• Retargeting – a form of BT........................................................................................................... 5
• What are the benefits of BT?....................................................................................................... 6
• How does BT work?.................................................................................................................... 8
• Creative Relevance.....................................................................................................................11
• Dynamic Creative/Content..........................................................................................................12
• Case Study – Dell Global Behavioral Targeting Program.............................................................17
• AdPeople as BT Partner and Facilitator......................................................................................18
• Want to know more?.................................................................................................................. 20
What is Behavioral Targeting?
Behavioral Targeting (BT) is a technique used by online
publishers and advertisers to increase the effective-
ness of their campaigns. It uses information collected
on an individual’s web-browsing behavior, such as the
pages they have visited or searches they have made,
to select the most relevant offer to present to that user.
Using advanced tracking technology, analytics,
audience acquisition and segmentation, marketers
can significantly increase the effectiveness of their
marketing efforts and realize dramatic savings on their
media spend as well as improved return on investment.
Behavioral Targeting provides users with a
relevant message based on the advertiser’s
knowledge about the customer’s needs,
interests and preferences.
8 Forms of Behavioral Targeting
There are eight forms of behavioral targeting outlined below:
Based on user’s previous visits on an advertiser’s website, relevant ads will be served on sites where the
advertiser has banner placements. When the user visits an advertiser’s website, a cookie (small code snippet
that contains and can record information) is set in the user’s browser, and the last product(s) or page(s) the user
visited are recorded.
The next time the user visits a publisher site where the advertiser has an ad placement a tag (a code snippet
designed to either send a signal to the ad server or read or write information to a cookie) reads the information
from the user’s cookie, sends the info to the advertisers product database, and – using predefined rules - the most
relevant offer is selected and displayed.
Ads are specifically targeted by content, such as an ad for sporting goods shown on ESPN. This can be done
through specific buys or through semantic targeting where pages and sites are analyzed to determine the content,
and then ads are served that match that content. (This is done by humans and, more recently, by machines.)
This is an overarching approach that matches ads to specific audiences. Various factors are used to track and
analyze audiences including demographics, behavior, devices, geography, day, time, etc. In addition to the above
criteria, audience targeting also attempts to determine the audience’s attitude towards key topics and intent to
perform a desired action (registration, purchase, social sharing, etc.).
In this scenario, users are targeted based on gender, age, income range, ethnicity, etc. This type of data is usually
only available through registration information or by inferring these criteria based on geography (IP zone), sites
visited, content viewed, devices used and purchases made. (The IP Zone initiative is a demographic database that
maps online traffic to qualified, target-ready audiences, yet is also committed to protecting user privacy.)
Targeting users based on location information including country, city, postal code, and other locale information.
This information is often derived from registration information but can also be inferred based on users’ browsing
behavior, IP zone, etc.
Targeting users based on keywords including search terms, hashtags or keywords used on sites such as Twitter
and Facebook. The ads may also appear on sites such as Twitter, e.g. as “Promoted Tweets” or on Amazon as the
products shown and recommended.
Essentially ‘day-parting’ online, these ads are targeted based on daytime or weekdays.
This fairly invasive methodology targets users based on their emotional states using information from web cams,
Microsoft’s Kinect or similar devices. A user’s emotional state can be assessed based on facial expressions,
speech patterns and gestures. It can also be done using semantic recognition on users’ communication such as
IMs, Texts, Tweets, Facebook posts, etc.
Retargeting – a form of BT
Retargeting is the most commonly used form of Behavioral Targeting. Here’s how it works:
1. A cookie is placed in the user’s browser when visiting the advertiser’s website which
records the pages (or last page) visited on that website.
2. A record of the cookie data and additional info about the user is stored with the ad and
applied to audience segments.
3. When the user visits a publisher website with a placement from the advertiser, the cookie information
is read and submitted to the ad server. Based on predefined rules including the audience segments that
the user has been assigned to the most relevant message from the advertiser’s offer database is selected,
and the ad is served to the user on the publisher site.
4. User clicks the ad and is redirected to the advertiser’s website where they can complete the purchase.
BUY NOW >
1 1 2
BT Beyond Retargeting
Messages can be targeted based on a range of
characteristics and information about the user that
is either directly recorded (registration), derived by
tracking browsing behavior or by tracking specific
data points, such as geo-location or devices used.
Marketers often combine all available data points
to not only select the most relevant message but
also target the user at the right time and on the right
device/platform. Currently, BT is mainly used with
display ads (online advertising banners) and email,
but marketers will be able to deploy BT programs
for TV, Digital Out of Home and other related media
channels within the next few years.
The omni channel presence and understanding
will be key to getting a full picture of the users.
The data points captured and used are essential to
continuously improve the ad relevance and timing.
What are the Benefits of BT?
• Increased Click
Through Rate (CTR)
• Increased conversion
• Increased Return on
• Lower customer
• Increased relevancy of
seen by individual users
• Messaging based on user
interest and preference
• Decreased waste
• Increased customer
BT provides important and measurable
business results while improving the
overall consumer experience.
Performance Boost Through BT
BT can significantly improve ad performance
by eliminating waste, such as money spent on
impressions displayed to users who have never
shown any interest in the advertiser or their offerings.
Generally, the more specific the offer in an ad the
less waste there will be. The generated traffic may
have a smaller volume than a more generic ad,
but the traffic will convert better. Results can vary
dramatically based on the level of targeting that was
used prior to using BT:
• Advertisers and agencies have reported
performance lifts of up to 29 times the
conversions compared to untargeted ads.
– Average lifts will be lower but are often
well within the 4-12X range.
• By adding targeting ‘layers’ such as cross-plat-
form retargeting (e.g. social and non-social),
advertisers can achieve additional lift of 2-3X in
• Retargeting performs
equal to or better than Search.
The performance boost for vehicles other than online
display advertising is equally significant:
• Relevant emails drive 18X more revenue than
broadcast emails (Jupiter Research).
• Leads that are nurtured with targeted content
produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities
Performance lifts of up to
conversion compared to
Average lifts well within
conversion compared to
Targeted content produces
increase in sales
Key Players in the Process Flow
There are many levels and combinations of
online banner creation and media buying.
See examples below:
1. Standard: A+B+C
Standard banners are created. Media is bought
on a number of known sites. Banners are
uploaded to the ad server. Number of views,
clicks and usually conversions are measured.
2. Creative optimization: A+B+D+C
Multiple banners are created. Media is bought
on a number of known sites. Banners and
placement are optimized but not in real time and
only for KPI tracking. Optimization may be done
by computer and/or human.
3. Behavioral targeting: A+B+D+C+F
Multiple banners are created. Media is bought
on a number of known sites. Cookies in the
user’s browser are used to select the most
relevant banner for the user. Selection happens
real-time following predefined rules.
4. Dynamic ad creation: A+B+D+G+C+F
Cookies are used to select the most relevant
offer or message, and the corresponding ban-
ners are created dynamically in real-time.
5. Real-Time Bidding: A+B+D+E+C+F
Cookies are used to select the most relevant
banners, and the banner served is the one with
the best bid on a range of sites. Can also be
combined with 3 and 4.
*Ad Server/DCO: DCO (Dynamic Creative Optimization): Requires enhanced abilities to capture and process data and apply rules to optimize
creative and ad performance. DCO can also be an ad server or it can work in addition to an ad server. So B is only optional when D is included.
**Decoupling of creative and production is not uncommon. For simplicity, here production and creative are referred to as the “creative agency”.
DSP Ad Exchange
Real Time Bidding
Planning, Creative Assets & Reporting
User’s behavioral data is communicated
to the DCO, DSP and AdExchange.
Based on the user’s tracking data and the
best available bid, an ad is selected and
shown to the user on the publisher site.
Who is Involved in a Typical BT Setup?
Creative and Production Agency
Agencies develop creative strategy and campaigns.
Responsible for designing and creating ads as well as content
(copy, video, images, etc.). May advise clients and all other ‘players’
on solutions around creative, such as technical possibilities (e.g.,
rich media including video, messaging options, ad formats for
different devices); often brief data feeds for offers or managing offer
options (e.g., when pre-built).
The Media Agency creates the media plan (and may make
budget recommendations for media), negotiates KPIs for publish-
ers and DSPs. Provides support in determining target audiences,
etc. The Media Agency often interfaces with the creative agency to
ensure that the purchased placements and the creative are aligned.
They also receive the ads once they are completed and traffic the
ads in an ad server’s platform to set a campaign live.
Hosts ad files and serves them to the publisher’s placements.
Provides 3rd party tracking, owns the ad serving platform where
campaigns are set up and launched. Manages ad tracking and
performance across DSPs, Ad Exchanges, DCOs and publishers.
May also track other vehicles for the client for a more
comprehensive view of marketing performance.
The organizations that own and run the websites where the client’s
ads appear (e.g. Hearst, MSN, WSJ, etc.). May work directly with
the media agency or may work through Ad Exchanges,
AdNetworks and DSPs.
Technology services providers that are often selected by the media
agency or by an ad serving partner. They provide different services
that are needed for Real-Time Bidding and Programmatic Buying
which are commonly used for Behavioral Targeting. However, some
of these services may be provided by the media agency or the ad
serving company, so not all of these vendors are always needed:
– DSP: (Demand-Side-Platform) Media entities/systems that
function as middlemen between advertisers and publishers for
programmatic media buying. DSPs:
• Use ads, audience segmentation information and budget
direction to optimize media buys by selecting publisher
placements that match the intended audience segments.
• Optimize buys by eliminating lower performing publishers,
placements or ad executions and emphasizing the
strongest performing combinations.
• Often work for a number of advertisers.
• Work with Ad Exchanges to manage the bidding process.
– Ad Exchange: Similar to a DSP but for publishers.
Ad Exchanges receive real-time updates from publishers on
available placements; they message these availabilities to the
DSPs who pass the info to the ad servers where the most
relevant message is selected and submitted to the publisher.
DCO (Dynamic Creative Optimization)
Support Behavioral Targeting efforts by providing added tracking
and decision-making capabilities as well as the ability to learn from
tracked historical data for continuous campaign optimization.
They are also known to provide a Real-Time Creative platform
(RTC) that marries the science of programmatic media buying,
upstream offer data and the art of creative.
Other relevant partners:
DMP (Data Management Platform)
Enables audience targeting based on a combination of in-depth
first-, and third-party audience data; accurately target
campaigns to these audiences across third-party ad networks
and exchanges; and measure with accuracy which campaigns
performed the best across segments and channels to refine media
buys and ad creative over time. Allows marketers to improve their
targeting based on large scale data from a variety of sources
that are provided in actionable audience segments that can be
Real Time Bidding (RTB)
How banner placements are sold and purchased, especially for
programmatic buying; a publisher will inform the Ad Exchange or
DSP that a customer matching several relevant segments is on the
site, Ad Exchange informs the DSP who selects the relevant ad
(based on info provided by the advertisers) and the best bid, then
sends ad tags to Ad Exchange who sends it to the publisher’s site.
Programmatic buying is a new form of media buying where an
advertiser works through a DSP and/or Ad Exchange and provides
targeting directives (e.g. audience segments) and bid budgets.
The Ad Exchange and DSP then run the ad when a matching
placement on a publisher’s website becomes available within the
budget of the advertiser (highest bid wins, similar to SEM).
It has been estimated that in 2014 programmatic buying increased
by 52% to approx. $21B worldwide and $10B in 2014 to $20B in
2016 in the US alone.
The opportunities for targeted and more relevant
communication have increased dramatically due
to the rise of real-time bidding, social media and
continuously evolving tracking and data management
capabilities. Simultaneously, it’s increasingly harder
for advertisers to be heard through the clutter as
there are more ads than ever, and many companies
now use targeting techniques.
As a result, relevance is key to grasping the
audience’s attention and triggering desired actions
such as clicks, purchases, registrations, etc.
Through tracking and data-driven marketing tactics
it is now easier to target the most suitable audiences
(based on interest, probability to perform a desired
action, cost of reaching that audience, etc.) and to
gather information about them, their location,
interests, purchase behavior and purchase intent for
certain offers, and often even their progress in the
While an attractive ad is important, having an offer
message that is relevant is even more important.
For each advertiser, the question becomes how many
different messages are necessary to provide relevant
messaging for the largest possible audience? In order
to increase conversions, especially for purchases or
actions that require more consideration from the user
it is recommended to consider sequential messag-
ing. For this approach one would create messaging
sequences for users to guide them through the steps
by providing messages that build on each other
and often also provide alternative messages in case
someone has seen an ad and not responded.
Dynamic Creative Development
Producing a large number of ads with specific offers,
especially offers that change frequently, can be time
consuming and costly. In fact, it can reduce or
eliminate BT performance benefits.
The solution is Dynamic Creative Units, which are built
as empty shells or templates specially designed to
accept external content (e.g. from a data feed).
Today, dynamic creative is increasingly used for
banners, websites and emails for efficient and timely
updates. For example, live data, such as price or
specific offers, can be updated without any change to
the creative files. Creative is updated through the feed.
It can also be used for personalization. For example,
on websites such as Amazon, landing pages and
promotional spaces throughout the site are populated
with offers that are relevant to the visitor (based on
tracking data in the user’s browser or their Amazon
account information, assuming the user is signed in).
Different content and offer options are stored
in a database or data feed, and the creative is
‘assembled’ using the appropriate content and
template when the ad is displayed to the user.
The user can’t tell that the ad was only just assembled.
If done right, it will look exactly like a pre-produced
Example of Dynamic
Creative Process for Banner Ads
Tracked Info (Cookie)
specific Offer 1
specific Offer 2
specific Offer 3
specific Offer 4
Hosting location or CMS for all assets
Built to accept dynamic content and hold content options with the correct formatting
Impactful copy highlighting the offer/product/seller benefits plus assets (product images, logos, other graphics)
Contains the copy and URLs of all assets that are loaded into the creative
The ad server stores ad files, sends ad tags to publishers or ad exchanges
It assembles creative from the template (shell) and adds the content (data feed)
The Decision Engine uses script-based logic to select the most relevant offer or content based on predefined rules
Tracks a user’s actions and behavior on the website
1 Headline 2 Brand Logo 3 Product Image 4 Partner Funding 5 Model / Pricing 6 Call to Action 7 Background Color
Meet the perfect touch
product for you.
XPS 18, Venue 11 Pro, XPS 12
Like the XPS 12.
Starting at $XXX
Find your perfect
• Spec line number one
• Spec line number one
Example of dynamic fields in banner ad:
Dynamic Content Types and Examples
Dynamic content can be categorized by how frequently or when it is updated (refreshed). For example, people
differentiate between content that is refreshed periodically (e.g. daily, weekly, hourly) and so-called ‘live’ or
‘real-time’ content. There are other content elements that may not be updated at all during a campaign.
Any campaign or website or other dynamic system encompasses more than one type of content. For example,
a banner shows a brand logo that is fixed in the ad and is not dynamically loaded while a price in a bid tool is
‘live data’ as it is loaded at the time of visit and sometimes even during the visit. (e.g, the bid counter on ebay that
shows the latest bid amount).
Example of Dell add periodcally updated
Fictitious example of airline ad with live content
Periodically updated content
In this case the database (or feed) is updated periodically or when the source content is refreshed so that the latest
offers and messages are available. The ad units can be pre-produced using dynamic systems in order to keep ad
load times to a minimum. This is most commonly used for most types of merchandise.
For example, pricing for airline banners where users can enter dates and/or destinations to get the latest pricing.
As flight prices change constantly based on a number of factors, only a system that updates the price or offers in
‘real-time’, at the time the ad is loaded can be used to ensure the current pricing is shown at all times. This methodology
is technically more complex and mostly used for offers that change constantly (e.g., flight prices or stock prices).
Enjoy a Maui dream vacation.
Airfare, hotel and rental car packages starting at:
Limited time offer.
Dynamic Content Types and Examples
Use dynamic content to show users the most relevant offer based on items they have viewed on your website.
It can also include additional offers that are deemed good matches or alternatives to the viewed items.
Through the dynamic nature of the ad, users will see the exact offer and (additional/alternative offers) that are
relevant for them. It would be impossible to pre-produce all the possible combinations, especially if the product
selection is large.
Example of Alienware retargeting ad
Dynamic Content Types and Examples
Sequential Messaging / Flow Messaging
These are two very recent types of behavioral targeting. The principle is that a user’s interaction with the ad unit is
tracked and messages that build on each other are shown with every new ad exposure. The message shown for
each subsequent ad will be based on:
– Did they interact and convert?
– Did they interact but not convert?
– Did they not interact?
This type of messaging and dynamic ad are often used for users who have placed items in their online shopping
cart but don’t finalize the purchase. In order to incentivize the user, the ad unit can offer a discount or otherwise
specialized offer if the user completes the purchase right away.
It is also used right after a purchase to encourage the user to purchase related items
(e.g., the user bought a digital camera; the advertiser can offer a matching camera bag or memory cards).
Geographical Targeting / Segmentation
For offers where products and prices can vary by location, the user’s geo-location is used to determine where they are,
then the correct offer is displayed. This is usually done using a mix of pre-produced (dynamic) content and live data.
Beat the heat this year.
Select central air
units starting at:
Don’t get left
out in the cold
units starting at:
Stage 1 (User has not seen this ad before.)
Fictitious banners from retailer that need to differentiate product based on geography.
Stage 2 (User has seen and interacted with the Stage 1 banner. Next time they see our ad they will get this ad.)
AdPeople was tasked with devising a solution that
could be rolled out across the globe. Additionally,
the agency had to develop creative that met Dell’s
brand standards while remaining very flexible
and adaptable. Furthermore, complicated co-brand-
ing requirements and translations across platforms
and technology stacks contributed to the
Dell Case Study
Dell chose AdPeople to initiate a process for developing and establishing a BT program for any region
and in any language. The goal was to streamline the program so that it could be rolled out quickly.
Worldwide launch of Behavioral Targeting and Retargeting Program
Our team addressed this challenge with the
right tools, people and processes. We started by
developing creative templates that were easy to
refresh via the feed (colors, creative elements,
backgrounds). We then established complex
feed and template rules along with solutions to
accommodate co-branding requirements.
Additionally, we developed and adapted the creative
assets and messaging to work with the BT program,
ensuring it existed in various formats (Flash, static
images, HTML5) for different ad-serving solutions.
A key part of our process was setting up unique
asset management systems for product images,
downloadable assets for users, video, etc. We also
created an automated image conversion tool to
generate hundreds of image sizes and formats with
one click and smart testing structures to guide new
creative designs and features
Example of one of the many banners used in the Dell BT program
By establishing a strong global, cross-agency
team and technology providers, we were able
to guide new markets and roll out the process
quickly and efficiently.
The results were dramatic. BT outperformed
non-retargeted ads across all target audiences and
regions, delivering 10X revenue with just 25% of the
impressions. Dell enjoyed up to 27X conversion rate
and 7X return on ad spend.
In addition, the results found that BT with
dynamic/personalized messages performed high-
er than non-personalized messages, delivering 5X
return on ad spend and 8X conversion rate.
with 25% of the
return on ad spend
return on ad spend
Our team is here to help you choose the right partners for media buying and the technology stack. We have
extensive experience with dozens of vendors and knowledge of many more. Because we are vendor agnostic,
we can help you find the right vendor by conducting in-depth assessments and evaluations to provide neutral
recommendations or work with your chosen partner; we also support the campaign roll out and provide
Consulting and Support
AdPeople has worked with dozens of vendors globally and has established processes and best practices
governing how we work with them — and how they work with each other. We create and implement rules
so that our clients get the most from their agency setup.
We also ensure your media agency, technology stack and other partners work together as a team with
clear roles and responsibilities to eliminate redundancies.
Agency and Partner Management
AdPeople has a state-of-the-art asset management platform plus several workflow tools, so that we can find
the right one for you. Our custom solutions, such as font extraction tools, enhance the process for our clients.
Additionally, we offer custom image conversion and refinement tools.
Tools and Technology
Execution and Production
The execution and production of the various elements is key to a successful BT campaign and we excel at
managing the entire workflow. We offer a single point of contact and manage partners, such as DCOs,
to ensure the creative idea is executed perfectly to maximize results.
Working with AdPeople
At AdPeople, we believe that good creative can complement BT performance. In fact, well-developed creative
can outperform the generic, perfunctory retargeting banners. And we have both the expertise and experience
necessary to integrate the big idea with the level of detail needed for each frame in the BT campaign.
• Provide strategy
Creative and Brand Strategy
Creative and Brand
Strategy and execution
• Provide / manage tools,
content and data
Data feed design/development
Tools and Technology
• Creative Strategy
• Media Strategy
• Support analytics
• Provide and
• Guidance for
Web / IT Team
DMP / 3rd party
AdPeople Agency and Partner Management
We are adept at working with a number of partners and the
client’s team to lead, oversee and coordinate BT programs and projects.
• Collaborate closely
Want To Know More?
AdPeople has a proven track record helping global brands initiate and maintain
Behavioral Targeting strategies. Established relationships with all of the entities
involved in the BT and dynamic content creation process enables us to develop
efficient programs that deliver dramatic results to our clients.
To learn more about our Behavioral Targeting capabilities,
please contact Simon Hjorth