ZoomInfo Charts New World of Ads Based on “Business Demographics”

In the world of Web advertising, targeted audiences are gold. If you publish a website that attracts the type of people who drink green tea, then click-through rates for green-tea ads are probably going to be higher than average, and companies like Snapple and AriZona Beverages will happily pay you a higher rate. Likewise, if you know that a lot of CIOs or office managers read your site, you can probably use that information to attract ads from the likes of Dell or Staples.

But how can you really know who’s visiting, in a way that you can prove to advertisers? A Waltham, MA, company called ZoomInfo says it has come up with a way. The company’s core asset is a collection of 40 million profiles of people in the business world, culled automatically from information scattered around the Web. (In fact, you might be surprised how much information ZoomInfo has on you—but more on that later.) When those people arrive at sites that use ZoomInfo’s advertising service, the company’s software can identify them, link up their names with their ZoomInfo profiles, and serve ads customized for people in their specific job categories.

“Say you’re a B2B advertiser, and you want to reach out to directors of IT,” explains Bryan Burdick, ZoomInfo’s chief operating officer. “We have 100,000 people with the title ‘Director of Information Technology’ in our database, and we’ve been able to, in essence, tag them. So if you are one of those directors of IT and you happen to be visiting any of the sites in our network, we can target an ad based on your business demographics”—or what Burdick calls your “bizographics,” for short.

In a way, ZoomInfo’s service is similar to the consumer-oriented “behavorial targeting” services offered by Tacoda and Revenue Science. But there are two big differences. ZoomInfo’s service is aimed at people in business roles. And thanks to its profile database, ZoomInfo can target Web surfers based on a highly informed guess about their job title and responsibilities—not just based on which websites they’ve visited recently or what subjects they search for, the way Tacoda and Revenue Science do.

So far, ZoomInfo’s ad-targeting service is a small beta program, but Burdick says he expects the program to expand quickly in 2008. It’s the third and most experimental revenue stream for the company, which was founded eight years ago by CEO Jonathan Stern as an outgrowth of his previous venture, CardScan.

I’ve used CardScan’s system extensively, and I’m thankful for the way it takes over the mind-numbing work of transferring information from all the business cards I collect into my electronic address book. The way Burdick tells it, Stern realized in the late 1990s that … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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