Nielsen: Brands Targeting Online More Narrowly, Missing Greater Share Of Intended Targets

While the ad industry has embraced conventional audience ratings as a method for determining the reach of their online ad campaigns, new trend data from Nielsen indicates that brands are basing their digital audience buys on increasingly narrower targets. The data suggests that marketers target more narrowly with digital media than with television, and that as more advertisers begin utilizing digital media ratings, they gravitate toward increasingly narrower segments.

The data, which comes from the second annual Online Campaign Ratings Benchmarks report being released today, shows that the percentage of campaigns targeting broad demographics declined from 40% when Nielsen first benchmarked the marketplace last year to 36% this year.

The shift doesn’t necessarily represent a change in the behavior of specific marketers, but may represent a shift in the composition of marketers utilizing the OCR ratings. Nielsen executives say the number of campaigns being tagged for OCR ratings has doubled in the past year to more than 10,000 currently.

Regardless of the reason for the shift toward narrower targeting, the result is that a lower percentage of online campaigns are reaching their intended targets. The percentage declined from 69% of all campaign impressions being tracked last year to only 59% this year.

“It’s mostly due to the fact that there has been a change in the diversity of the kind of campaigns that are being tracked,” explains David Wong, vice president-product leadership at Nielsen.

While the decline in the overall percentage of targets reached with online campaigns dropped 10 percentage points in the past year, Wong says it actually reflects a positive trend from Nielsen’s point of view, because it means more brands are utilizing the data to target their audiences more narrowly. “It means they are using OCR to measure their ROI,” he says.

Wong says the next development to keep an eye on is Nielsen’s next report, which will include data on mobile audience exposure, which Nielsen began tracking in July. The next report including the mobile audience data should be released near the end of 2014.
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4 comments about "Nielsen: Brands Targeting Online More Narrowly, Missing Greater Share Of Intended Targets".
  1. charles shillingburg from APN Staffing & Employment Solutions , September 2, 2014 at 1:13 p.m.
    I agree that this change is a positive thing, not negative. Until recently, advertisers were limited in their ability to accurately target their consumers, resulting in significant amounts of waste in their advertising spending. Instead of a "lower percentage of online campaigns ... reaching their intended targets," advertising can be more efficient and effective in reaching their intended targets to achieve desired results.
  2. Timothy Daly from ITN networks , September 2, 2014 at 1:30 p.m.
    It may be that the data is not very good. Possibly the targetting technology is weak. Mr. Wong's explanation that more advertisers are using the Nielsen data and failing to get the expected results does not sound positive to me - and certainly not for Nielsen's clients.
  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc , September 2, 2014 at 4:10 p.m.
    Assuming that the data is valid, why should it be surprising that online ad buys targeting selective audiences----in other words, smaller segments----often direct a lot of their media "weight" to non-targeted consumers? It seems to me that this is a logical consequence of being more selective. For example, if you are going after a group that represents only 5% of the country and you direct 55% of your media weight to this segment, is this really a problem? Perhaps, this percentage might be improved, by tinkering, to 57% but, in my book, the fact that 55% of your "audience" is drawn from 5% of the population is a remarkable achievement. It might be helpful if Nielsen offered a comparison of the size of the selective target groups----on average----relative to the amount of "waste" coverage. As for TV, even though many advertisers target "mass", the fact is that a good deal of their audience is off target, as well. What's more, much of TV's "waste" audience delivery actually has value----especially older adults who are reached in huge numbers, despite being shut out of the most common "demos"----18-49 and 25-54. Breaking news: Older adults are major consumers of many products and services.
  4. Ken Mallon from Microsoft , September 2, 2014 at 4:38 p.m.
    I think they are saying that the wastage is increasing but the definition of being "on target" is getting more narrow. Ideally, wastage increases and on-target becomes more narrow (if appropriate -- more on that in a moment) partly due to better targeting tools and better measurement/optimization tools. Now, on to the issue of on-target. It's my opinion that advertisers are often too narrow. They learn that their "average" buyer is a 25 yo female so they target women 20-29 not realizing that, although the average is 25, the range is 18-54 with 30% being male. So, I see a lot of over-targeting. I like when advertisers start broad and use ad effectiveness data to then narrow in the future.