Friday, September 23, 2011

Start-Up Watch COD: Media6Degrees Drives Strong Results By Applying an “Act-Alike” Social Science Principle to Targeting

I gravitate to companies that take a different approach or direction in digital media.
Because there are now so many companies doing more or less the same things with the same data points and the same units, many of us are skeptical about competing claims in the same industry categories. Raise your hand if you find the claims of reach, quality, and transparency a little tiresome when spouted by ad networks. Nuff said.
So I like different, and because of that I have liked Media6Degrees from the first time I heard about them. Media6Degrees was founded upon the social science principle that people with similar interests tend to cluster into groups that share brand affinities and purchase patterns. They use a four stage process to deliver results.
  1. Identify:  The company begins an engagement with a client by cookie-ing visitors to client web sites, taking one or two weeks to collect enough data points to build a seed population for a campaign.
  2. Match: They identify the clustering behavior of your site visitors on the web, and match potential prospects (usually in the tens of millions of people) to deliver scale.
  3. Execute:  They deliver media to those matches through exchange based buying:.
  4. Refine: They adjust the model based upon new learnings and refinement
So imagine you visit a brand web site and then go on your merry way, doing the things you like to do online. Like visiting blogs about quarter horses, sending e-greetings, checking the A’s scores, lurking in eBay auctions for beanie babies, taking a ten-minute break looking at paparazzi photos of celeb cellulite, flipping over to Facebook to leave a status update about how busy and overworked you are, and so on.
Your set of activities is compared to those of tens of millions of others. Individuals that demonstrate similar web consumption patterns are identified as having a high degree of likelihood of having similar interests. People who behave like you start seeing banners and videos for the product. And over time, the set of people seeing the banners and videos is refined to drive better metrics and scale.
Media6Degrees isn’t collecting user interest data, or leveraging 3rd party interest data. They actually DON’T CARE that you like cellulite photos and quarter horses. As with all reputable networks, individual identities are anonymized. But Media6Degrees offers two additional layers of anonymity – they don’t try to record your interests or bucket the types of content you visit.
You aren’t classified into some sort of “horses and corsets” psychographic to them. They don’t even focus on your demographics. What a person is – is someone with similar interests as certain other people, ergo more likely to have interest in the brands that those other people buy.
In this way Media6Degrees identifies the “Social Signature” of a brand. Then they purchase media against others who demonstrate similar interests, constantly tightening and refining the algorithm to improve the match.
That refining and winnowing is important because Media6Degrees optimizes to a desired metric, not just site visitation. They often find that while site visitors have one behavior pattern, actual buyers have somewhat different patterns.
A new offering called Planner can also provide brands and pubs information on the best sites to find brand users, and the best brands through which to monetize site users. 
Anyway. By constantly tightening these Social Signature parameters they drive better and better results.
How much better? Well, I will only speak for the half dozen or so campaigns that I have knowledge of – ones that we fielded at Catalyst S+F. In every single case Media6Degrees was the number one or number two performer on the plans. By wide margins. We’ve seen results more than 3X better than any other plan element on several occasions.
And what I like best is that they drive those mega results by breaking the rules. While the rest of the world is getting more and more interest data from third parties, Media6Degrees says they don’t give a stuff about your interests, only a sense of how what you do on line is similar to what other individuals do. I am not condemning interest based targeting by saying this. Just pointing out that there may be more than one route to Zanzibar.
Me, I like having another path to take.
I like rule breakers. The crowd zigs. Media6Degrees zags. And based upon the results we have seen…zagging = good.

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