Sequential Media Targets Cookie-less Future As Pretarget Pivots

Looking to provide an alternative to the ever-popular cookie targeting used in online display advertising today, Keith Pieper has decided it’s time to “pivot” his 10-person startup – was Pretarget (AdExchanger March 2011), now Sequential Media – and pursue the cookieless future.

Pulling from Pretarget learnings, “Crowd Targeting” is Sequential’s core, patented technology that Pieper hopes can both open up and combine the mobile and PC-based display markets with improved scale that takes advantage of behaviors in real-time.

The press release announcing the company’s new course explains how Crowd Targeting works:

    “Crowd Targeting uses HTTP-Referrers which is data passed between web pages in the header and indicate to the destination site where a user is coming from. The most common use of the Referrer today is for web site analytics, which use the Referrer to report on referring Search Engine Optimization (SEO) keywords and referring sites (backlinks). Because there are billions of web pages on the internet, the referrer makes an effective proxy for audience based targeting without the drawbacks of cookies.”

And all of this is privacy-friendly – i.e. anonymous, says Pieper.

He discussed his company’s plans with AdExchanger yesterday as well as the patent behind Sequential Media…

KEITH PIEPER: The patent that we developed years ago keyed off of the notion of a referrer and a destination page, which we thought could work for targeting.

The reason that it hasn’t been done before is cookies, up until now, have done a pretty good job.  They enable a lot of cool things that have never been possible before so there hasn’t been a need for a viable alternative. I think it has been a matter of timing to find something that can at least get you to a partial solution that replaces the cookie or, at least, complements it.

AdExchanger: Are you in market today with the product?

Yes.  We’ve been transitioning our business model and are formally launching with publisher partnerships as well as formally launching in mobile in the fourth quarter.   We do this [today] in PC-based display and have been running it for a solid six months now. We’ve seen good performance both from brand lift study and quick-read standpoints.

So, what’s the “go-to-market” strategy? 

The “go-to-market” is a combination of mobile advertisers, who want to be targeting but can’t because the best mobile alternative is category targeting. So it’s overlaid on those key market segments that can’t or don’t want to use cookies, which would be the pharmaceutical, banking and CBG advertisers.  We think that’s where we’re going to make out initial splash.

What’s a basic use case for Sequential Media’s product line – there’s a sell-side and buy-side use case, correct?

There is. So, the common use case for an advertiser would be automotive car buyers.  If someone is looking for cars and they’re on their phone or their tablet, we want to be able to find that person and intercept them as they are going from site A to site B.  We’re basically sitting on site B, which is where we are going to serve the ad, and we see that user come in by looking at the referrer and basically key all of our targeting off of it.

The idea is – what’s the relationship between site A and site B and what sort of targeting can we distill that down to?  Our analysis engine, which we are calling the Crowd Targeting Engine, distills it down to keywords, so it can be used easily in advertising.

One big key differentiator here is none of the targeting or analysis that we do is user-based. We don’t have a notion of the user in our system at all since it’s all keyed off of referring URLs.  It is an aggregation of users as they go down these paths of URLs, and that is why we call it the crowds because we are targeting crowds of people.

And is there a self-site use case here?

The use case is that we can monetize inventory on their site without the use of cookies so there is a) No data leakage from retargeting cookies and b) We can do this on mobile and PC so we can touch all of their inventory.  And, because we aren’t using cookies, we can potentially monetize every visitor to their site or every page viewed.  There is a tremendous upside for publishers who are looking for a better alternative to what’s out there today.

How does Sequential Media make money here?

We are playing the middle man between the advertiser and the publisher. We go out and sell a typical media campaign to an advertiser – and we take a share of that and provide it to the publisher.

You’re at 10 people now.   Any thoughts on future funding? 

We’re a pretty lean operation and we’ve been bootstrapped to date.  Today, we’re right in the middle of raising a round.

Follow Sequential Media (@crowdtargeting) and (@AdExchanger) on Twitter.

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