Behavioural advertising was kicking about as a new buzz term in 2006/7/8 when I was buying huge amounts of online display advertising for companies like Telstra BigPond and It was tipped to be the next big thing and we were ready for it. As media professionals and advertisers we wanted better ways to find our audience rather than just demographic profiles provided by the publishers (which were there to serve their own purposes, not ours).

So along comes behavioural targeting – it was just another way of tracking the i-paths of massive audiences and targeting them based on their click stream (which sites they viewed).

Now, the new behavioural targeting sounds like it actually works. Using cookies, we can monitor what individuals are viewing on their computer (so long as they don’t delete their cookies – we used to think about 30% of people delete their internet browser history regularly – I can’t find anything that suggests what the current deletion rate is in 2011) and send them ads that are relevant to what they’re browsing online. Bingo – perfect match.

So, of course most people hear alarm bells right about now and think that their privacy is being invaded. Trust me, the cookie only tracks you as a random number, there are no personal details stored. You are just one pixel in the ocean that is the internet. You help form a “cookie pool” of other individuals who are searching and browsing for similar things online. It means you will all receive the same kings of ads and hopefully they will actually be useful to you.

Behavioural targeting is brilliant. It should mean that you will never again see an ad that is not relevant or of interest to you. Of course, this will never be 100% true because many of us share computers with our friends, family and colleagues. Not to mention those un-reputable folks who just don’t care.

So, if you’re buying media online, and you have a product you need to sell or promote, I suggest you test behavioural targeting as a tactic. But make sure that your cookie pool is set up properly before you start and that your conversion/ post click tracking is in place. If these things are not set up, then you’re buying premium media with no way of measuring if it actually worked.

And for those who don’t like reading – the IAB has helpfully uploaded a video that explains how behavioural targeting works for online advertising.