For the past several years, I’ve been fortunate enough to take part in the “Hypertargeting” panel at Digital Hollywood. The session is always well-attended and generates a wide array of perspectives. Even though technology to identify, optimize and deliver to appropriate audiences is constantly improving, the fundamentals have remained largely unchanged for more than a decade. In our panel last Friday, I aimed to provoke discussion about the ways marketers and publishers can leverage smart targeting to obtain a better result.
1. Just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean you should. When presented with a smorgasbord of audience targeting options, marketers and publishers sometimes take things a bit too far, risking the success of a campaign by getting too granular. You may be able to explicitly reach left-handed grandmothers in Iowa who love salty snacks, but you’ve likely narrowed the pool size to the point that the campaign will never make financial sense. Publishers are well-advised to counsel marketers towards larger segments that still meet advertisers’ overall objectives.
2. OR, OR, OR, not AND, AND, AND. Similarly, build targeting pools that leverage signals from multiple providers – and, where possible, first-party data – so you’re more likely to reach an appropriate audience at scale. No single “off-the-shelf” data provider has universal cookie coverage, so you’re going to want to combine multiple segments. Leverage lookalike modeling to further increase pool sizes, but take care that your provider has a favorable signal-to-noise ratio in its models.
3. You probably don’t know what you don’t know. An often-overlooked side of audience targeting is the “discovery” piece. For instance, maybe I’m an auto site, so I’m obviously likely to wildly over-index for those who are in-market for a new vehicle purchase. However, I didn’t know that I also have a population of frequent users with a very high propensity to buy a premium-class ticket to Asia in the next two weeks, creating a non-endemic business that I didn’t know existed. Similarly, marketers may find themselves to be sitting on a “hidden goldmine” of data that can sometimes be less obvious.
4. Get offline. Everything that we’re doing online today with targeting has already been done -- for decades and with incredibly high degrees of sophistication -- in the offline world. Catalogers, for instance, have been in the data game forever. Look offline for inspiration: think about what consumer behaviors prompted you to receive that credit card offer, that unsolicited magazine or that catalog that seems to be just your style. Then think of clever ways that you can supplement your efforts by onboarding anonymized offline data, helping to differentiate your offering.
It’s arguable that online media risks becoming commoditized, as it is arguable that syndicated data has already become a commodity. But the marriage of proprietary media with proprietary data allows publishers to build a defensible moat around their offering, and helps make marketing more effective, useful and relevant.