I had polar opposite targeting experiences today on Yahoo and Google.

On Google, I was using GMail to email my friend Kevin about setting up a lunch. The email chain was pretty boring stuff: are you free on this date? where do you want to meet? and so forth.

In the past, Kevin and I have also emailed about college football – I’m a big Iowa Hawkeyes fan, he’s a big UCLA fan.

For this reason, I was pretty impressed to see AdSense ads showing up alongside our banal lunch email chain with the following headlines:

  • UCLA Fightsong Ringtone
  • College UCLA
  • UCLA Bruin Tickets
  • Bruins Ringtones

Sophisticated targeting going on here. Somehow AdSense has associated my friend Kevin with UCLA (who knows, perhaps this is all he ever emails people about, but I doubt it) and therefore serves UCLA-related ads whenever I read any of our email chains.

In contrast, I regularly surf my “My Yahoo” page to check up on the various paid search blogs that I read, my stocks, my favorite sports teams, and the latest world news. Yahoo has a ton of information about me based on all these feeds and my emails. And yet, about 75% of the ads I get are the classic “free iPod” banners. Most recently, I was asked to vote on whether I liked Hillary Clinton (and ‘win a prize’ for participating), and to participate in a ‘test panel’ to receive a free dinner for two at Chili’s.

These ads are clearly “run of site” or “ROS” ads that Yahoo is selling for pennies per CPM. Not to toot my own horn here, but I’m sure that there are plenty of advertisers out there that would pay a lot of money to target ads to me. I’m a Silicon Valley marketing executive with a lot of disposable income (well, a lot more than the average American at any rate). You could target me with bid management software, CRM, conferences, travel, fine dining – there are many ads that might appeal to me that could pay Yahoo big bucks.

But instead, I get the product test panel ROS. Google’s remembering my old email conversations, and Yahoo can’t differentiate me from a 12 year old in Tulsa. And you wonder why Google’s stock is 20X Yahoo’s.


  1. Anonymous January 10th, 2008

    “Somehow” Google knows that Kevin likes UCLA? Somehow? It’s funny you say this, because the only reason I don’t have a gmail account is I think it’s creepy that they target ads based on the CONTENT OF MY PERSONAL EMAIL EXCHANGES!! It’s one thing to target based on feeds, sites visited, etc, but I don’t want anyone scanning my email for content for any purpose…even if it would make for a richer ad experience. I’m sorry that there aren’t any advertisers interested in targeting your behavior on Yahoo! Maybe there aren’t any advertisers paying to target people who want to buy bid management software. I’m sure Yahoo! has you in a whole host of profiles, but maybe nobody’s buying…

  2. Costanza January 10th, 2008

    so Yahoo is like your little brother that pesters you when you are trying to do something, whether or not it is to your benefit or not is up to you and…Google is like your Big Brother that knows more than you want him to and exercises his knowledgeable options at will by rubbing your face in it regardless of what you want.Serenity now, Insanity later.

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David Rodnitzky
David Rodnitzky is founder and CEO of 3Q Digital (formerly PPC Associates), a position he has held since the Company's inception in 2008. Prior to 3Q Digital, he held senior marketing roles at several Internet companies, including Rentals.com (2000-2001), FindLaw (2001-2004), Adteractive (2004-2006), and Mercantila (2007-2008). David currently serves on advisory boards for several companies, including Marin Software, MediaBoost, Mediacause, and a stealth travel start-up. David is a regular speaker at major digital marketing conferences and has contributed to numerous influential publications, including Venture Capital Journal, CNN Radio, Newsweek, Advertising Age, and NPR's Marketplace. David has a B.A. with honors from the University of Chicago and a J.D. with honors from the University of Iowa. In his spare time, David enjoys salmon fishing, hiking, spending time with his family, and watching the Iowa Hawkeyes, not necessarily in that order.