Placement gets personal

Marketing tech delivers customized messages to each consumer

Mary Gorges
6 June 2016

4 min read

You Google “green stilettos.” Minutes later, the pages you surf all feature advertisements for high heels. How? Your browsing ‘cookie’ relayed your search to an ad placement algorithm, which processed automated bids from companies eager to sell just what you want to buy. Personalized advertising is just one way that hyperconnected technology is enabling 1:1 marketing … and the bots will only get smarter.

Merchants have long been on the hunt to learn about their customers’ preferences and behavior. But in today’s data-rich and hyperconnected world, personalized marketing – known in the industry as 1:1 marketing – is reaching new levels of pervasiveness and personalization.

Take IKEA’s newest ad campaign, #ShareTheBathroom, where consumers go online to create their own banner ads, including personalized messages and pictures of IKEA bathroom items, that they then send to the people they know best: loved ones and roommates. The result? IKEA’s customers are actually creating ads for the company’s products – ads that then appear on sites across the web – with a ready-made endorsement built in.

“Everyone is chasing the holy grail of 1:1 marketing,” said Janet Xi, producer of Jungle Media, the Canadian company that created the variation on a social media campaign with IKEA. “We wanted to create a way to serve hyper-personalized communication based on the most relevant, self-proclaimed household needs. Banner ads are usually very generic, so this consumer-to-consumer model made it a lot more interesting. And putting social marketing on a more traditional platform, IKEA’s website, made it even more unique.”
Xi said the campaign’s objective is to drive brand awareness and consumer engagement. The ad recently won a Gold award from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) in the category “Innovative Use of Creative Optimization Ad Technology.”


Word of mouth was the original 1:1 marketing technique. It’s how people successfully promoted products before newspapers, TV, radio and email – much less technology like recommendation engines – existed. Today, however, 1:1 marketing increasingly is about driving a message closer to the actual, magical moment of an individual’s decision to buy a product or service.

Patrick Dolan, the IAB’s executive vice president and COO, believes the proliferation of data products and automation has unleashed the value of data, including data that product companies own directly and even larger pools available for analysis from data engines like Google and Facebook. Some of the most exciting innovations in 1:1 marketing right now, he said, are ads that ”dynamically adjust” based on what is known about each user’s interests, allowing marketers to tailor their messages in real time.

PATRICK DOLAN, Executive Vice President and COO, IAB

“For example, a car (or truck) manufacturer may promote a different vehicle to an urbanite versus someone who lives in a rural area,” Dolan said. “This decision can be made in real time when the user is on a content page, and the ad that’s ultimately served can feel truly personalized based on a combination of what the advertiser knows about a user’s demographic, psychographic, behavioral, interest, and other declared or inferred preferences. Many marketers are beginning to experiment with sequential storytelling – a sort of a choose-your-own adventure, but in an advertising context – where you see a certain number of ads in sequence. You’re exposed to new creative as you move through the decision process.”

In the future, Dolan said, it won’t be enough to know that a customer bought a shirt from your store. You’ll also want to know if they followed up by posting a good recommendation experience and who they told about it. With increased use of cookies that allow companies to know a lot about a user, even if they don’t know the user’s name, plus registration data, bots and search-and-posting histories, the ability to provide customized 1:1 experiences on a massive scale becomes a reality. And, perhaps soon, a necessity.


Beyond search and consumer behavior data capture, the worlds of 3D video, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are up-and-coming areas for marketers to explore. “We’re in learning mode right now,” Dolan said. “These can be powerful channels to communicate a physical experience, for example: a 3D experience of a shopper ‘trying on’ a brand’s most recent collection, touring an airline’s new cabin configuration or experiencing what it feels like to sit by the pool at a luxury resort. We’re in that exciting phase where anything is possible.”

3D isn’t the only technology fueling the revolution. The heart and soul of 1:1 marketing innovation are the new analytical technologies, which are advancing almost daily. The better a company’s ability to meld and analyze large, disparate data sets, and then imbue them with visually rich imagery, the better it can build true 1:1 precision-marketing campaigns.


“You don’t just push a static campaign to someone who is interested in X,” said Michael Nathan, vice president of Digital Marketing, Media and Advertising at Dassault Systèmes, the 3DEXPERIENCE Company and publisher of Compass. Instead, the campaigns served up to users are starting to evolve and change minute by minute as the algorithms learn more about each individual’s habits and interests.

“Consider the connected car,” Nathan said. “It takes your information and makes your environment inside the car very personal. It filters the services that are available and only sends you the information you want. And, in turn, that information adjusts your environment. The car becomes a type of virtual assistant that senses the context and adjusts its response to match.”

As the Internet of Everything evolves into the Internet of Experiences and becomes increasingly cognizant of individual behaviors, interests and needs, it appears poised to do an even more efficient job of anticipating and influencing our buying behavior. At the rate the technology is advancing, can the day be far off when our devices know what we want before we know it ourselves? ◆

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