American Airlines said the online targeted ads performed better than any other traditional form of advertising.
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The campaign, produced by TM Advertising of Dallas, included TV, print, radio, out-of-home messaging and online placements on 14 Web sites. The behavorial targeting portion of the effort took place on WSJ.com, the Web site of the Wall Street Journal. TM Advertising, a part of the Interpublic Group of Cos., was formerly known as Temerlin McClain.
The Wall Street Journal Online has been offering behavioral targeting on its Web site for about a year and a half, said its vice president of advertising, Randy Kilgore.
The objective of the overall campaign across all media was "to remind business travelers that what American Airlines has to offer is still very desirable and relevant to them, while airlines like JetBlue are trying to make people believe that the only thing that matters is price," said Rob Britton, managing director for brand development and advertising at American Airlines.
The specific goal was to increase brand awareness and reach the maximum number of audience members likely to have a live interest in making business travel plans in the near future.
The other parts of the campaign were placed and conducted in the normal manner. But working with WSJ.com and Revenue Science, TM Advertising created a behavioral-targeted execution of online ads.
Revenue Science, with offices in New York and Seattle, offers the software and services required to turn a publication's Web site into an enclosed database marketing system that recognizes and directly interacts with specific individuals.
One of the ways it does this is to track and record where visitors go and what they read within the Web site. In this case, the system was watching for readers who frequented WSJ.com travel columns and features, such as "Middle Seat," "Desktop Traveler" or "Takeoffs and Landings." These readers were tagged as "travel seekers" and segmented as a group within the Revenue Science database.
In effect, the database-targeting system invisibly creates a virtual audience of a different composition, or a different demographic, than the Web publication's larger, overall audience. Once they are identified, these segmented audience members can be "followed" around the site and served American Airlines ads, no matter what section of WSJ.com they are reading.
The more time the readers spent in the travel features, the more business trips Revenue Science assumed that they were interested in taking. If someone spent time eyeballing a travel article on one occasion, Revenue Science made an educated guess that that person traveled once a year on business.
That one flight-a-year site visitor was the airline's target, Mr. Britton said.
Pinpointing the individual members of that target audience was the key to the test. "Then we could determine what degree of lift we could obtain in terms of audience composition," said James Hering, senior vice president and director of interactive marketing at TM Advertising, American's agency of record.
Individuals in the travel-seekers group were served ads based on their behavior on WSJ.com. A control group, which had no demonstrated travel interest, was exposed to ads placed in the normal manner across the various sections of the site. The study compared these two groups.
All visitors saw rich media, large-format ads, which featured testimonials from customers. They talked about the amenities American has that low-cost airlines lack, such as the ability to upgrade to first class; that AA flies often to many places around the world; and the benefits of a frequent-flyer program, Mr. Hering said.
The results of the behavioral targeting were dramatic, according to American Airlines and TM Advertising.
For instance, compared with the general run of site Web ads, the behavioral-targeted ads were seen by 115% more business travelers who take one trip a year, the marketer and agency said.
The lift among those who take five or more trips a year was 145%. "Composition counts," said Omar Tawakol, senior vice president of marketing at Revenue Science. "It tells the marketer we delivered the right people."
And, the targeted business consumers remembered the message better than others did, he said. That group did 3% better than the average in aided brand awareness, according to TM Advertising.
When they were asked about a specific message that plugged American's 3,900 flights a day, there was a 26% lift in message association. Online survey firm Dynamic Logic provided the brand awareness results, which showed these to be the best-performing ads in the campaign.
Behavioral targeting was cheaper, too, according to the agency. Using a cost-per-target metric, Revenue Science determined that it was 25% cheaper to advertise to the group that flew once a year, and 45% cheaper to reach the segment that flew five times a year. That's even though run-of-site ads are priced at a slightly cheaper cost per thousand, Mr. Hering said.
Database marketing, of the kind described in this article, has been called different names by different companies as it has emerged in recent years, leading to much confusion. These include "behavioral targeting," "addressable advertising," "online database marketing," and "targeted marketing."
It is also often confused with customer relationship marketing (CRM), which is different kind of database-driven technique, largely focused on the management of relationships and marketing interactions with existing customers. Behavioral targeting, on the other hand, is a strategy employed to identify potential customers within a larger online or cable system audience and execute one-to-one advertising programs designed to ultimately turn those individuals into customers.