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Ad network Specific Media focuses on premium inventory across major Web sites for national brand advertising. But it also has some interesting methods for tracking the influence of branding on search behavior and some interesting implications for local advertising. This will gain relevance and effectiveness with the acutely targeted IP-based advertising that upcoming IPTV packages and triple-play systems will bring to both national and local advertising, and it will tie them together more effectively.


Specific Media focuses mostly on the head content: the most visited media Web sites including those of Fox, CNN, ABC, ESPN and 450 other publishers. It likewise attracts brand advertisers interested in large-scale national impressions, and it’s the seventh-largest ad network in U.S. unique visitors (120 million) and reach.

But the ad network also has an interesting ability to give these large-scale ad buys demographically relevant targeting. It does this by collecting cookie data across 2 million Web sites to determine valuable patterns in Web surfing behavior and extrapolate who’s who online, which enables it to place advertising in front of desired consumer groups that marketers specify.

“We collect massive amount of Web surfing data and are able to look at each user and score them to the likelihood of age, income, location and demographic,” says CEO Tim Vanderhook.

Many ad networks apply their own, sometimes similar, methods to target ads more effectively. But Specific Media has also engaged comScore (via an anonymous consumer panel of 2 million individuals) to track subsequent search behavior  up to a few weeks to see the effectiveness ad impressions have on search down the road.

This is conceptually similar to the tracking and ad serving method known in the search world as post search (see AlmondNet) and is particularly relevant in high-consideration, high-cost verticals such as autos, where there is often a great deal of latency in search behavior.

Brand advertising will never go away in such categories and will maintain an important place at the top of the purchase funnel. Assessing a return on such brand ad investments has always been difficult. But these types of tracking methods can get advertisers closer by seeing, on a large scale, where their online display ads influence search behavior further down the funnel when clicks, leads or conversions are generated for specific model cars and specific local dealers.

IPTV: Tying It All Together

Performance tracking for brand advertising from exposure, to search, to even lead generation and conversion, will become even more effective in an IPTV environment, Vanderhook agrees. Here, the ultimate national brand advertising tool –  the 30-second auto ad –  can be better served and tracked down to a set-top box level (compared with cable television’s current ZIP code level targeting).

“Right now, we rely on a cookie to tell us where that IP comes from. Soon there will be no need for a cookie anymore,” says Vanderhook. “ISPs will offer triple-play package and will be able to look at who consumers are more effectively.”

This value of this position and the ability to act as a content and ad distributor across systems will be where telcos will recoup the massive investments currently being made on fiber network deployments (IPTV), as examined in the TKG Triple Play Advisory (summary here).

As Specific Media has begun to do, the pull-based search tools that IPTV will offer can better track the success of brand advertising in influencing search behavior down the road. This is also true with some cable offerings (see last week’s post on Vehix’s interactive TV). This gets even better when you bring in more elements of triple play and have IP-based call tracking (via VoIP), and a higher degree of integration between the television, search interface and the telephone.

Here, click-to-call functionality and pay-per-call ad models and call tracking will gain importance. Vanderhook wants to position Specific Media to be ready when this happens and is already testing products with some IPTV systems. This will also be very relevant to local if national advertisers more effectively integrate ad campaigns with local dealers using set-top box IP targeting for both behavioral and geographic targeting.

“Pay-per-call will gain importance with better integrated VoIP platforms. It allows you to do a lot of routing around the call, and it can be more effectively tracked,” says Vanderhook. “ISPs will have triple-play relationships with consumers, and everything will be tracked from ads served to phone calls placed to dealer leads. The dealer and manufacturers can meanwhile track sales more effectively, and marketing spends.”


Related: Market research firm iSupply projects the global IPTV market to grow from $779.2 million in 2006 to $26.3 billion by 2011.

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