Can ads be too targeted

Can ads be too targeted?

November 2017

Written by Dan Marsh, Digital Director at bigdog 

The good old days

Remember simpler times when media channels that marketers had at their disposal to reach their audience were nice and broad. Sure, consumer research could help focus in on TV or radio spots that were more likely to reach your target demographic, but it was generally accepted that media buys would involve an ‘acceptable’ level of wastage.

Now we give our most personal data freely to communication giants and provide marketers with ways to definitively match message to target. Media planning has never been easier, right? Well, maybe not…

The Power of Understanding

When ‘big data’ became a marketing buzzword a few years ago, businesses could be forgiven with getting carried away. It was all about gathering data; harvesting your customers for as much as they were prepared to disclose and creating vast databases available at our fingertips.

Which is all very well, but what was the end goal? Some lost sight of their ability to use this data to form greater understandings of who their customers are. Where they come from. What their needs and desires were. To dispel myths that entire propositions were based on.

And therein lies the danger of hyper-targeted media. Misunderstand who your audience is and why they buy your product, and you risk misplacing a huge portion of your media budget on assumptions. And you know what they say about assumptions…

It’s all in the planning

At bigdog, we’re big advocates of targeted digital and social media. We’ve got plenty of success stories that show if you combine singular insight on your audience with the online tools to reach them you not only yield results, but learn a hell of a lot more about them too. We approach with a few simple steps:

1. What do we KNOW about our audience – not what do we think we know, but what we definitively know. And if a client isn't sure, we have the tools and talent to dig out the facts.

2. What are we selling and how can it resonate – whatever the story, the more we define who our audience is then our talented creative wizards can create a more compelling, concise message.

3. What’s the best way to reach them – this is where there can be plenty of banana skins, and the answer may not always be clear from the beginning. Here are just a few potential approaches, and the answer may be a mixture:

  • Broadcast – creating broad audiences using fairly high-level traditional demographic attributes (age, gender, social grading) we can test multiple message with varying segments to see what resonates best. While this gives you a pretty large audience to test, the basic targeting means there could be the potential for wastage.
  • Custom audiences – getting more defined using the data at our disposal, we can use wider profiling and behavioural attributes (like lifestyle or interests). Our audience size narrows naturally, but our wastage is potentially reduced – so long as we’re sure our attributes are right (see point 1).
  • Engagement and remarketing – now we’re getting really granular! Ensuring we only serve out messages to an audience that has engaged with our brand in some way – great! Easy pickings! Remarketing can be incredibly efficient, but there are still pitfalls.

4. Have a licence to fail – it usually takes at least a week or two to determine which messages work best, the channels and strategy that proves the most effective and the profile of audience that respond consistently. Once we have that, we can optimise everything.

To coin a rather geeky famous phrase – ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ (and I’m not even a comic book fan!?). Google, Facebook et al have made it easier than ever for businesses of all sizes to promote to the right audience, but it still needs to be done in the right way - with your audience at its absolute heart.

We like to think we’ve got a decent handle on things, so if we can help you add more focus to your targeting, then please get in touch.


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