Getting Started With Personalized Advertising

Ad personalization, like any ad development, starts first and foremost with the clear identification of goals/objectives. But, there, personalized ads typical veer from the normal goals set in standard brand advertising. These ads are typically constructed more like direct response advertising, emphasizing specific response goals and seeking to achieve measurable return on investment.

Developing personalized ads requires different thinking from normal brand advertising. Great personal ads should offer:

  1. Strong, eye-catching visuals
  2. A clear and easily identified call-to-action
  3. Readily identifiable action codes for mobile interaction (more and more users are acting on advertising offers via mobile devices!)
  4. A Personal URL for accessing personalized offers via a desktop computer….since not everyone has a smartphone (yet!) and then not everyone who has a smartphone has a QR code reader.


This Toyota branding ad offers a classic execution with strong visuals but no direct call-to-action.

Let’s look at two examples.

The Toyota FJ Cruiser ad above is an example of a classic branding ad, with the scene of an apparent accident disrupted by the fact that the guard rails are bent inward! The visual are compelling and designed the hold the reader on the page for more than a second or two. But, there is no call-to-action…for that matter, there is no phone or contact info of any type. These ads continue to be a foundation for many brands fighting for mindshare in crowded markets since they can be run widely at manageable CPMs. (We would argue that even branding ads could often benefit from the inclusion of action codes and associated landing pages to drive more data capture, but that is not their primary objective.)

By comparison, personalized ads seek to reach people on a more conversational level and are typically trying to encourage the user to take a specific action. The HP ad below shows a great example. Run as a part of a program to leverage an innovation award HP was being given by Popular Mechanics, the ad sought to introduce users to the new printing technique that made the ad possible…which is based on inkjet printing technology. A sweepstakes on the back linked readers to a landing page where they could enter some personal info to enter. Strong headlines on the front and back drive awareness of the ad’s purpose and the availability of the sweepstakes.


This ad actually used numerous personalization elements to create clear customization for the individual reader.

The HP personalized ad campaign used 6 different customization elements, including both text and graphics, to make each ad unique for the individual reader.
The HP personalized ad campaign used 6 different customization elements, including both text and graphics, to make each ad unique for the individual reader.

As a result of the personalization, the ad recorded over a 5% response rate via the QR code or Personal URL, with over 86% of the visitors to the landing page subsequently completing the entry form for the sweepstakes.


Measurement At A Subscriber Level

Personalization is first-and-foremost being used to drive higher response rates and to incent readers to take action as part of the campaign. However, of equal importance to both advertiser and publisher is the array of data that is generated by these campaigns.

With each ad being graphically and/or textually customized for the reader, it becomes possible to tune the action codes (e.g QR codes) to the individual reader as well, in the same manner as personal URLs. This means that each ad can be tracked at the subscriber level, providing valuable feedback to the publishers on readers responsiveness to ad programs, level of mobile activity, and other characteristics that might be gleaned based on product categories. This data can be used to enhance the publication subscriber database.

At the same time, more granular reporting can be supplied to advertisers, with raw click data being augmented with subscriber demographics and geographic click data that can accelerate follow-up.

The combination of enhanced response and granular, subscriber level reporting makes personalized ad programs a win-win for publisher and advertiser.