Quants, Diets and Swimsuits

Steve Lohr’s piece in yesterday’s New York Times “Small Business” section explored some forward-looking online advertising scenarios for the SEM crowd. The so-called “quants” have raised the algorithm stakes to now let display ads find their online target, or more precisely, let the target find the most psychographically appropriate ads.

Last year, this blogger posted on the changing dynamic between the advertiser and its online prey shortly after reading John Battelle’s The Search. But Lohr takes Battelle’s prognostications a step further:

“Indeed, many in the industry regard display advertising that can reach specific audiences as the next big online opportunity — the postsearch wave, the Internet ad market 2.0.”

Talking about algorithms, if you live or work in Manhattan, you’ve likely seen the billboard teaser campaign that plays on that hard-to-spell word. I do find the Ask.com campaign alluring, but it also says something about the “quants” and their growing algorithmic influence over our lives.

“These players are actually hybrids, possessing varying degrees of media smarts. They often operate thousands of miles apart, with the ad experts in New York and the quantitative analysts, or quants, as they are called, on the West Coast. Together, they are changing the nature of display advertising on the Web.”

One of the quants I visit from time to time keeps tabs on online behavior. LeeAnne Prescott of Hitwise just posted a most timely analysis showing an uncanny seasonal correlation between the search terms “swimsuits” and “diets.” I guess the itsy bitsy teenie weenie yogurt ad creative has taken its toll on the public consciousness.