Behavioral targeting – Dopplr and hotels.

In “internet years” ads that use Behavioral Targeting, where creative is shown to users based on the sites they visit and on what they do on those sites, is probably eons old. But in an indication of the revolution that could come about in that field, a highly interesting and insightful article in the Wall Street Journal notes that “while the big news in the online world focuses on Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, a more profound revolution is taking place on the online social networks”. The Journal article notes that users are taking “control over their own online data. While they spread their Web presence, these users are not looking for privacy, but for recognition as individuals — whether by friends or vendors”. This, according to Esther Dyson, an investor in technology companies and the author of the article will “eventually change the whole world of advertising”.

Ms Dyson states that “The current online-advertising model will become less effective, even as it gets increasingly sophisticated. New players are emerging to devalue the spaces that the ad giants are currently fighting over. Companies you’ve never heard of called NebuAd, Project Rialto, Phorm, Frontporch and Adzilla are pitching tools to Internet service providers that will enable them to track users and show them relevant ads”. That will result in a “barrage of ads” that target users who, nevertheless will “tune them out”.

That’s when social networks such as Facebook and Myspace comes in. Users at these social networking sites increasingly are able to control information about themselves and, more importantly, determine to whom that information is visible, thereby, controlling “who gets into his own garden, whether friends or vendors”. Ms. Dyson points to “Dopplr”, a site for travelers. Users on that site can list their trips and see how they mesh with friends’ itineraries. The monetizing impact of that comes about when a user “friends British Airways, which will say, “We see you’re going to Moscow next month. Why not fly through London and we’ll give you 10,000 extra miles?” I’m no longer in a bucket of frequent travelers, my privacy protected. I’m an individual with specific travel plans, which I intentionally make visible to preferred vendors. British Airways, of course, will pay Dopplr a handsome sponsorship fee to be eligible to be my “friend”. Equally a chain or even individual hotel can do the same and “bid” on being the hotel of choice for that subset. Ms. Dyson notes that it is of optimal use for frequent travelers but it could equally be of use for the occasional traveler who chooses a less private “setting” on the social site to be more inclusive so as to net similarly situated travelers.

Dopplr and Facebook’s impact on hotel revenue models are probably too small right now but given their uniqueness and the burgeoning community in their midst they warrant a serious look by hoteliers.

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Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.