B2B Display Ads with Demographic Targeting: Why Doesn’t Google Do This?

Earlier this week, San Francisco-based Demandbase announced its “Company Targeted Advertising,” a new platform that allows B2B marketers to target online display advertising either to specific companies (by name) or those that meet specific corporate attributes (company size for example, or vertical industries).

The introduction follows on the heels of a similar announcement at September’s Dreamforce conference by Bizo, when they unveiled Bizo Company Targeting, a solution that also allows B2B advertisers to target display ads at prospects within target accounts, say Fortune 1000 companies, or a list of names from within the advertiser’s CRM database. Madison Logic, a provider of “data powered lead solutions” based in New York, also announced a similar offering this fall with their Data Match Lead Retargeting service. You can even make comparisons to the display advertising offered by Internet darling LinkedIn, through whom B2B marketers can also target prospects by industry, company size, even job title.

Coming in quick succession, all these announcements represent a potentially dramatic shift in the use of display advertising as a demand generation tool for B2B advertisers. To date, in order to reach specific markets or corporate demographics through online display, B2B marketers have needed to rely primarily on targeting by content – placing ads either on sites of an editorial focus likely to be read by their target audience, or using contextual models where ads appear adjacent to related content. Neither of these models prevents unqualified prospects, or even consumers, from viewing and clicking on those same ads. (Demandbase estimates that the traditional display model results in 67 percent of all ads being served to unintended targets.)

The ability to target specific industries, job functions, revenue tiers, even specific companies, changes this dynamic fairly dramatically. Where previously, display advertising has tended to be a little-used B2B demand generation tool other than for broad-based general awareness, now it has the potential to match other channels – notably content syndication (PPL), and paid search (PPC) – in its ability to drive low-cost qualified leads that meet B2B advertisers’ target demographics.

Which leads me to wonder: if indeed this becomes more than a trend, and develops into a standard feature of B2B display advertising, can Google, or even Yahoo/Bing, be far behind in offering their own version of demographic targeting? Imagine, if you will, the option to display search ads (through Google AdWords) only to companies that match up with your target attributes, instantly eliminating the wasted investment in conversions or leads that will never become sales-ready prospects. Technically, it should be possible. Financially, is Google prepared to lose all those clicks (and click revenue) that would disappear as a result?

3 thoughts on “B2B Display Ads with Demographic Targeting: Why Doesn’t Google Do This?

  1. Jason Stewart

    Actually, it was a comScore study that said that 67% of all display ads were served to the incorrect audience, and behaviorally targeted ads performed only marginally better. This is one of the main reasons that display advertising hasn’t been as popular a tactic in B2B, as we are traditionally much more comfortable paying for clicks than impressions. The impact is significant, however, if B2Bs measure the overall engagement across their digital content of the companies that they have targeted. If you can connect with more of the companies in your sweet spot, the ones that are actually likely to become revenue, get more of them to your web site and get them there more often … that is what is infinitely more valuable to a B2B marketer than simply tracking impressions and clicks. And that is why we are so excited about our new offering – Company-Targeted Display Advertising. Thanks for your interest!

  2. Chris Mann

    We’ve been running company targeting campaigns for over a year now and as the article points out made an announcement at Dreamforce recently. Company targeting is just one tactic that a marketer should consider as part of their full funnel marketing approach. Company targeting is an upper funnel strategy that is more suited to branding and awareness and less so for performance/lead gen. It’s a great way to be sure you are geting your message to an entire organization. At the same time you’re getting your message to an entire organization and in that you have waste. For example if you have a solution that you want to sell to IBM there are likely 10 people at most at IBM who would be involved in the decision yet company targeting on its own w/o additional data applied to the targeting is going to target all 400,000 employees of IBM. The Marketer should consider their goals and select the right set of strategies to maximize their goals and have the ability to measure and optimize across all programs. That said we’ll have an interesting announcement soon related to enhanced capabilities around our company targeting offering.

  3. Howard Sewell Post author

    It’s occurred to me since I originally wrote this post that Google could make up for a loss of click revenue by charging “premium” click rates for demographically targeted search ads. Come on, Google – what do you say?

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