April 8, 2010, 12:00 AM

Ad firm serves consumers online banners promoting products they have viewed

Criteo recently opened its doors in Silicon Valley to fill what it believes is a void in the U.S. market: Highly targeted banner ads that show consumers the products they viewed but did not purchase on e-commerce sites.


A consumer who browses digital cameras at BestBuy.com and then leaves the site probably wouldn’t be surprised if she is later shown an ad for digital cameras on NYTimes.com. But what if she was shown a banner ad with the exact Canon PowerShot SX200 IS she had viewed? Or, how about an ad with the five exact products she had explored while on the Best Buy web site?

That may trigger an impulse to go back and buy, says J.B. Rudelle founder and CEO of personalization and retargeting firm Criteo. Criteo offers an ad-retargeting system that hooks directly into an e-retailer’s catalog to create banner ads showcasing the products a shopper has viewed but not purchased on a retail site. If a shopper has viewed more than one product, an ad can display a rotating carousel of several items. A click of an ad takes a shopper directly to a product page, Rudelle says.

Criteo launched in May 2008 and until recently was headquartered in Paris, mainly targeting advertisers in the U.K., Germany and Italy. Last year, it relocated to Silicon Valley to concentrate on the U.S. market, which it says is behind in retargeting technology.

“Retargeting has been around for almost 10 years,” Rudelle says. “It’s not a new marketing concept. But Europe is more advanced than the U.S. today and we want to fill that void,” Rudelle says.


More companies are targeting consumers based on their online behavior. 24% of online marketers used behavioral targeting in 2009, up 50% from a year earlier, according to a Forrester Research Inc. poll. But other vendors offer technology similar to Criteo’s, says Emily Riley, research director and principle analyst at Forrester Research Inc.

“The practice of creating dynamic ad content based on past behavior is a small but growing part of the display market. Companies like Teracent, bought recently by Google, Tumri and Dapper all specialize in dynamic ad serving and have the ability to retarget ads with pricing and product text and imagery,” she says.

To create its ads, Criteo develops a basic banner ad template and connects to a merchant’s data feed using a program such as XML. It then takes information including images, descriptions and prices and populates the template on the fly to feature the specific products a shopper has viewed. Criteo says it typically takes about half a day to connect to a company’s product database. An ad can display as many as 10 products.


For clients that don’t want to feature several products in a single ad, Criteo selects the three best products to promote using data such as purchase history, customer behavior-such as how a shopper navigated a web site-and the items a consumer placed in a shopping cart and then abandoned, Rudelle says.


Art.com, No. 99 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, started working with Criteo in November using it for marketing its AllPosters.com brand in the U.S., as well as in France, Germany, U.K. and Italy.

Criteo has direct access to AllPosters’ entire catalog feed containing over one million SKUs in each country, says Kai Schindler director of search marketing and SEO for Art.com. So far, Criteo has served over 150 million unique retargeted banners to AllPosters customers around the world, he says.

“We have been pleased with the results to date, especially with the volume and scalability achieved,” Schindler says. “After the success we have seen for our AllPosters sites, we are planning to expand the Criteo solution to our Art.com brand.” He would not provide more detail.

Criteo says it serves more than 4 billion personalized ad banners a month. Clients pay each time a consumer clicks on an ad. Rudelle says some competitors charge each time an ad is served or when a consumer mouses over a banner.

More than 400 clients worldwide use Criteo, including a handful of the top 20 online retailers according to the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, Criteo says.


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