Accurate ad targeting relies on creating the right profile

by Nigel Hollis | April 29, 2019

I know that good ad targeting can make a big difference in the short-term impact of a digital campaign. And I also know that success is relative. Better targeting increases the probability of reaching a person likely to buy your brand; it does not guarantee it. But are advertisers really investing enough time in creating the right profiles for accurate targeting?

I recently a came across this article from last year titled, “5 Reasons Why Demographic Targeting Is Out and Behavioral Targeting Is In for 2018”. Now I am not saying that I disagree with the points made about demographics being a lousy way to target people, they are, I just am not willing to take it on face value that behavioural profiling is better.

Let’s do a little experiment. What do you make of this profile?

Watches Netflix but not regular TV, buys Patagonia and organic groceries.

Who do you think this person might be? Millennial cord cutter who works at a fintech start up?

How about this one?

Listens to the radio daily, lives in a small, rural town and mobile geolocation suggests they do not get out much when they are there.

Probably older right? Maybe retired.

Nope. They are both me. It is going to take a lot more than three data points to make sure you can target me effectively. And it is hardly better trying to create a profile from what I do than using traditional demographics like older, white, male.


In fact, if you really want to target me effectively perhaps you should use both demographic and behavioural data to create my profile. And then, because we know it makes a difference, why not layer some attitudinal data on top? Would it help the automotive dealers who have my name on their list to know I would never consider a Maserati (particularly as I live in Vermont not Arizona)? Do that and you might really be getting somewhere. In past studies we have seen triple digit increases in ad campaign effectiveness when adding attitudinal data into the mix. Now add in my social background, my cultural origins and traits inherited from my parents and you might actually get close to targeting me effectively. Good luck!

So, am I wrong? Please share your thoughts.

1 comment

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  1. Boonlert, May 01, 2019

    Hi Nigel

    Thanks for raising this important point. Can you suggest measurement tool which marketer and media agency can measure effectiveness of multiple-data-point ad targeting ? I and my media agency used to try using demographic,and attitudinal profile together which most matched the brand positioning. However, we didn't have a measurement to really justify effectiveness from using multiple data points. 

    Typical measurement tool my media agency use are Reach and Frequency from rating agency. My agency did a little beyond that by doing monthly ad recall questionnaire survey based on broad geographic and income profile without attitudinal profile.

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