Super Targeting

Back in my Young & Rubicam days, I went through an agency training course for media planners. Participation was mandatory for all planners and buyers who worked at the agency, and the Y&R “Media School” was where I learned the basics of media planning for the first time. The media staffers at Y&R taught my colleagues and me how to put together media decks for presentation to the client, soup to nuts. One of the things that we were taught was that it was important to include a “Day in the Life” feature within these presentation decks. In this feature, we would demonstrate to the client that we understood the target audience by mapping out a day in the life of the typical member of the target audience.

“A Day in the Life” always showcased the research that we were able to get from sources like MRI and Simmons. Not only would we outline the basic demographics of the typical member of the target audience, but we would also talk about media consumption habits, leisure activities, other products consumed and interests that were prevalent with the target. The idea was to leave the client with a warm and fuzzy feeling after demonstrating that we had a terrific grasp of the client’s target audience and their habits.



But when the presentation was done and the plan was approved, we would tell the media buyers to buy media based on simple demographics. Most of that learning about the target audience went unleveraged.

Syndicated research from companies like MRI, Simmons and Intelliquest can tell us all sorts of things about a given target audience. But something usually gets lost in the translation between the language spoken by the planner and that of the buyer. Lost, that is, unless you’re talking about advertising online.

Online media have vast potential to allow media buyers to buy targeted media based on the criteria that media planners pull out of their research data. Some websites have done a great job of allowing media buyers access to specific audience segments, but others don’t offer targeting capabilities as robust as buyers might like.

But what if a buyer could virtually reach into the data repository of a given website, define his own target and attributes based on observed and declared data, and then buy against a custom segment? I’m looking forward to that day, and it seems as if it might be closer than we might think.

Such “Super-targeting” could raise a whole new series of disciplines within online advertising. If buyers could suddenly define their own set of targeting parameters within the audience of a website, we could see the following:

1. Agencies and media buying companies would have to have people on staff who specialize in assessing a site’s audience, developing custom targeting profiles and implementing them.

2. We could add an entirely new dimension to campaign optimization. Once an online media buyer notices a particular custom audience segment is generating better results than another, the challenge will be to find out why. The testing of custom variables could become simple and commonplace.

3. Testing custom segments could become a great way to gain insight into a company’s target audience, with online media steering both buys within other media and a marketer’s overall strategic direction. Agencies and media companies will need people who can distill the data into marketing intelligence and make sure that intelligence is used to teach the advertiser about the intricacies of their audience.

Why do I think this idea’s time has come? Recently, I met with Dave Morgan, president and CEO of Tacoda Systems (formerly TrueAudience) and he brought me into the loop. His company is working on a system to allow for this kind of audience segmentation. I think he and his company are on the right track.

It’s time we really starting leveraging one of the best attributes of web advertising – its targetability.

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