Yahoo's "Genome" Uses Big Data To Decode Which Commercials You're Bred To Click On

Yahoo's newly launched Genome platform lets advertisers crunch amazingly specific web information on millions of Americans. Is big data the future of web advertising?

Marketers now posses enough technology to figure out what you want to buy, sometimes even before you realize it yourself. The hard part is consolidating enough data about you to make the prediction models work. On Monday, Yahoo! joined the small-but-growing number of companies that can do it.

Yahoo's long-awaited predictive analytics advertising platform, Genome, which splices together more than 25 databases of online activity from hundreds of millions of people, is now live with its first campaigns from BMW and STP. Combined with in-house data and its preexisting partnerships with AOL and Microsoft, Yahoo! can now target brand campaigns to micro-demographics that advertisers may not have even realized existed before. 

Genome, which leverages Yahoo's $270 million purchase of Interclick last year, is all about predictive analytics. It virtually guarantees advertisers that every single penny is well spent, since they can tailor campaigns to users' individual web activity and browsing preferences—something that is undeniably creepy but is also par for the course in 2012 web marketing.

Brands choosing to run their campaigns through Genome will be given access to an operations team who will walk them through the platform and assist them, says Yahoo!, "throughout the lifecycle of their campaign from deployment through optimization and the sharing of post-campaign insights." Through Genome, clients will be given access to Yahoo user data for 76% of the American population, search data from over 300 million daily searches conducted through Yahoo, and over 50,000 user characterizations acquired through the Interclick acquisition.

Yahoo's own promotional information emphasizes the big data elements of Genome. And Yahoo's general manager of audience and performance advertising told Fast Company that, "the ability to aggregate high signal data across a myriad of partners combined with the massive amount of proprietary Yahoo! data that is not widely available provides Genome with an unmatched ability to drive results and provide our clients deep insights." Which, translated from adver-speak, means that Yahoo! now has enough databases to know intimately what individual customers are doing when they go online.

Genome also gives a hint of what the future holds for Yahoo's other properties—the service's homepage (shown above) owes a heavy debt to Windows Metro. When asked about this, Foster told Fast Company that the similarity between the two is simple, clean design that emphasizes symmetrical shapes and patterns, but that Genome has opted for a more "robust" user interface.

For more stories like this, follow @fastcompany on Twitter. Email Neal Ungerleider, the author of this article, here or find him on Twitter and Google+.

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