Thursday, October 23, 2008

Akamai Moves into High-Tech Behavioral Targeting

We have the ability to work with some largest advertisers and networks and publishers today to do much larger and more flexible re-marketing buys.

- Mike Afergan, chief technology officer-senior VP, Akamai's Advertising Decision Solutions

In Abby Klaasan, "Akamai Gets Into the Ad Business," Advertising Age, October 21, 2008.

Remarketing is a company's act of sending a followup message to a consumer to encourage a purchase based on what the company has learned about the consumer since the prior interaction. Akamai's purchase of Acerno gives it a special ability to do that. Akamai itself is a "content delivery network" that helps web publishers, ad networks and advertisers delivered their content to users efficiently. "Because it streams content all across the internet, it has a wide view of the web and how consumers use it." Acerno, meanwhile, "tracks what consumers buy on a variety of e-commerce sites and crunches that data through an algorithm that predicts who the customers are (someone buying maternity clothes is likely a soon-to-be mom) and predicts what they'll buy next and serve them appropriate ads."

Working together, Akamai and Acerno can determing the internet behaviors of a person and then send an ad that the computer calculations deem relevant for that consumer. The system also recognizes when a person puts a product in an online shopping cart but abandons it before making the purchase; Akamai can help that retailer target ads or discounts to that person, promoting the products left unpurchased. Though Akamai executives didn't mention it, the technology undoubtedly sets the stage for serving consumers with different news and entertainment along with ads on the web in the belief that ads will get a better response when served with other materials that match consumers' interests.

Will these sorts of cutting edge activities, that don't require knowing consumers' physical-world names or postal address, raise concerns? That remains to be seen.

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