The rise of custom audience targeting is a very important part of the evolution of the digital advertising ecosystem.
A Brief History Of Audience Targeting
In the beginning there was context. If you’re an advertiser who wants to reach men 18-34 what are these audiences typically interested in? Sports. Great! Now go place media buys on ESPN and other sports content. This is a simple explanation, but this was the primary way of buying ads for decades, when advertising wasn’t as fragmented as it currently is.
Context became very important to digital advertisers as the big three networks competed with cable, radio, print, and then digital media.
The beginning digital actually leap frogged into the present with programmatic advertising in the form of search targeting users with ads based on their stated interests. But, for the rest of the web digital marketing was about context.
Programmatic advertising evolved the marketplace, and even before that change ad networks were offering audience targeting, though it was called behavioral targeting. When programmatic became important we saw the evolution and importance of data. Those of us buying inventory directly through demand side platforms like MediaMath, The Trade Desk and TubeMogul saw, and continue to see, the power of data to make advertising smarter. These audience targeting capabilities were, and continue to be, paired with algorithmic ad optimization to reach users based on a compendium of information gathered by data providers and data aggregators (Acxiom, Polk, CrossPixel, Datalogix, Blue Kai, etc). Though a little bit of a black box these marketplace solutions changed the game. Paired with demand side platforms, data management platforms and rich sources of supply third party data made it very easy to target really granular audiences at scale.
The third wave, broadly speaking, is the wave of custom audience targeting. It’s powerful. If you are a marketer who has any first party data set chances are you can target those users in a slew of different platforms. These targeting capabilities make it easy to extend CRM marketing, deliver targeted offers, and forge relationships with consumers in ways that simply were not available in the past.
So, who is doing it? Here is a small list of partners, which covers a massive swath of the digital marketing ecosystem.
Through AdWords marketers can target Website Visitors, Mobile App Users, YouTube users and Customer Emails.
What’s unique here is the ability to reach YouTube users who visited your channel, watched your videos and subscribed to your channel.
In Facebook new user engagement capabilities allow us to remarket to users who clicked on our ads (particularly valuable for lead ads within Facebook), people to watched portions of your video ad, and even people who have interacted with your Facebook page. More standard is the ability to remarket to audiences from your site. Importantly, any of this data can be used to develop modeled audiences. This is important because only some big trading desk solutions do this at scale outside of Facebook, particularly Xaxis. Access to a demand side platform allows this to happen across the display advertising ecosystem.
With the Tailored Audience targeting advertisers can remarket to Twitter IDs, mobile IDs and email addresses. Remarketing to site visitors can also be easily turned on. These are all powerful custom audiences.
After setting basic campaign parameters like flight dates and picking the pin advertisers get to choose from some strong targeting capabilities. Remarket from past site visitors, target email addresses, engage with people who interact with a pin, and create a look-a-like audience.
This custom audience targeting is available for mobile ads, banner ads and video ads. Using a partnership with LiveRamp we get to upload device IDs or email addresses. These data points are hashed locally within the browser to maintain anonymity with our partners, and the result is the same email targeting across the web.
In addition to powerful targeting it’s important to see another use case for this data. We use CRM targeting to exclude audiences who have recently converted into customers. We don’t want these people to continue seeing ads for discounts. We want these people to see ads that help nurture the customer relationship and incentivize use of complimentary products.