How to Make Sure Your Ads Are Getting to the Right People


Let’s pretend that you’re a marketer for a car dealership and I’m a single 30 year-old in the middle class. I have had a few promotions and have some disposable income. On paper, I’m someone who could be in the market for a new car. In order to serve ads to me, you might chat with your advertising agency, develop a persona, and select the following segments:

  • Age: 30-35 year olds
  • Education Level: Undergraduate Degree +
  • Interests: Economy Cars

This seems good, right? On the surface, yes, but selecting segments to serve ads to your target market is too easy. We want to target people based on their behavior and actual data, not assumed interests. You need to know your data, select tactics that work toward your end goal, and optimize your campaign based on findings.

Know Your Data

You need to ensure that you know where the data is coming from and how often it is refreshed. Take the Oracle Registry for example. They are one of the largest segment providers and yet, according to them, I’m a 55-60 year old and a millenial at the same time. I am also listed in nearly every single auto intender segment available. And, that’s the thing. I’m not actually interested in buying a car.

In economics, we discuss theories around the idea that an “econ” will make the most logical decision. Logically, a 30 year-old would want to replace an older vehicle that they likely used through college. But people aren’t econs. We have emotions and erratic interests based on our experiences, not always logic.

Instead of creating our advertising campaigns around ideology, we want to serve ads to users based on their behavior.

Select the Right Tactics

In order to target an audience based on behaviors, we need to leave behind the idea that we know who our audience is. With our targeting tactics, we want to learn who is actually engaging in our messaging before narrowing down the advertising.

For example, if you are a nail salon, you may be tempted to serve ads to exclusively women. But, what if someone is male diabetic who requires pedicures?

With programmatic display advertising (PDA), you can serve ads to people who have actually searched terms relating to “nail salon” or who have physically visited a competitor in the last 30 days.

Additionally, Facebook will allow you to target users based on interests they’ve shown on the platform. If you are a quick service restaurant (QSR), you may want to target users who have watched quite a few food videos or liked competitors. The key is ensuring that the data we use to target audiences is based on verifiable information instead of unknown segments.

Don’t Set It and Forget It

Once you’ve selected your tactics and developed a plan of action, it’s easy to build the campaign and forget about it. But, in order to learn about your audience and optimize your targeting, it’s important to analyze your data on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to ensure that your hard work is paying off.

All in all, we want to create a target audience based on behaviors, not assumed interests.

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