Very Targeted Banner from Orbitz

Sorry for the lack of posts in the past few days; was working on something else this past week that I hope to be able to share soon. Am back though.

Here's some Minority Report advertising for you. See, I've been looking for a last minute ticket to Chisinau (?), a city that's definitely not a top summer destination. I looked at Travelocity, Yahoo (but not Orbitz), typed the query into Google, then called someone up on a friend's reference, found a good deal, and forgot about the whole thing.

Then I go to Technorati for something completely unrelated, and there I see this Orbitz banner that apparently was generated dynamically based on some sort of data stored on my computer.

My question is, what exactly is this banner using for targeting? My guess would be that it's a Google search string saved as URL in history that was picked up on a third-party site by the network serving these banners. I think I also might have used an obscure site that could've been powered by Orbitz, which would be a good explanation. Leave a comment (moderated) or drop me a line if you know. Oh, and wouldn't it be cool if the banner could pull up actual pricing from the database? (No, because Orbitz's prices are at least twice the amount I ended up paying).


  1. I assume you were logged in to Technorati when you saw the ad. Was it on the home page or some other one?

  2. what did the banner say?

  3. The picture of the banner is above: "Find flights from Boston to Chisinau". I was not logged into Technorati and the banner appeared on the results page when I searched for this blog's backlinks.

  4. It's behavioral retargeting. They use cookies on an ad server to serve up ads based on sites you've visited during that session. Retargeting is very effective when you visit a service like the travel site and see an ad a few sites later that is related. Frequency sells.
    Doubleclick and others offer this.

  5. Hi - sorry for the instrusion just came across your blog and thought I would comment.

    most likely the sites that you were visiting were all within the same ad network (most likely media buyers are able to "follow" a user and target them from site to site as they visit sites within the same ad network as long as you meet the demo/behavir/whatever other targets are set up in the campaign. With and their over 4000 sites or any other large network it easy to target like this (cookie based)

  6. The browser can't access items in it's history other than to go to them, so I wonder how this worked. Did you search from the Google home page or did you use the search tool-bar?

  7. It's possible that Travelocity, Yahoo and Orbitz are using the same provider for delivering these ads. If any of them happen to write to cookie some of your search criteria they could reuse this information across any site in their network to deliver a targeted ad.

    This principal is leveraged by all the big players like DoubleClick, Atlas, Microsoft etc.

  8. It IS intriguing.

    If Travelocity kept your query in it's database (wich they should) why would they give it away (yes it would be illegal, but further more, it would be bad biz)?

    Same goes for Yahoo. With Ouverture, they do create an ID after a query, not before. Interesting... But once again, why give away that info?

    One can read web history. Ajax can see where you've been (based on a list) but in no way see the query you've made there. I may be wrong of course.

    So, perhaps, Orbitz's affiliate program is the answer. If you stepped on (or similar site) they might have pushed that banner. Kayak has a biz model based on affiliation so they have the means and the will.

    If you see it again, please copy it's source code. It might help solve the mystery.

  9. I've seen this ad as well, populated with data from a search I did on Orbitz a week earlier. It seems like the data's coming from a cookie set by the domain. So the next question is how is an ad serving from another domain accessing that cookie? Or maybe the search data is also stored in another ad network cookie? That would make more sense.


I am moderating all comments to weed out spam (there's a lot of it). Comments are usually approved within a day.

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