Stephen Baker

The Boost
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Behavior ad campaign for Numerati: Results

June 12, 2009Marketing the book

As I've been writing, the British publisher, the Vintage division of Random House, is considering changing the title for the paperback edition of the book from The Numerati to They've Got Your Number... The idea is to shift the target from current affairs and business readers to popular science--and, of course, to induce casual readers to pick it up.

With this in mind, I've been going through the results from our behavioral targeting campaign, to see if any of the lessons learned are relevant. This campaign, carried out last fall by AOL's Platform A, studied the behavioral patterns on the Web of thousands of people who saw and clicked on a series of Numerati ads. It tried to determine which types of readers were most likely to buy the book, and which ads appealed to them most.

The study started with three types of ads (some of them, admittedly, bordering on hyperbolic): Scary ones ("Think carefully before your next step... You are being watched by the Numerati"), Basic ones ("Can't decide who to vote for? Let us tell you. The Numerati know your decisions before you do.") and ads oriented toward business readers ("A guide to 21st century living. The Numerati will change the way you work. shop. vote. think. live.")

After initial monitoring of the audience, Platform A focused the campaign on different types of readers: Business oriented, Arts and review readers, and general audience.

Most relevant to the paperback cover, they found that scary ads "generated significant response, but ads targeted to business decisions makers actually generated the highest likelihood of reading the book." They calculated that it cost 31 cents in advertising to entice a business reader to consider buying the book, while it cost 50 cents to sway a "book lover." (If you're curious about the particulars, there are loads more details in the study.) So does this mean that the new cover, which has a scary element to it, will lead more browsers to pick it up, but not as many to buy it?

I don't know. But I do have serious questions about the Platform A study. The target audience seems far too old. According to the stats, a stunning 83% of the people studied were over 45 years old. Only 5% were from 25 to 34 years old--an important group, I'd think. That said, based on the audiences I've been talking to, the younger people seem to focus less than their elders on the scary aspects of data surveillance.

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