How Targeting Fuels Audience Activation and Satisfaction

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It wasn’t long ago that advertising meant splashy upfronts and big media buys — with deals sealed, perhaps, over a three-martini lunch.

Yet just as we recognize the world of “Mad Men” as an anachronism, so too must we revise our idea of what advertising can be.

Today, any brand — not just those with a seven-, eight- or nine-figure advertising budget — is capable of reaching and engaging prospects. Thanks to targeted digital advertising, even the smallest startups can find their ideal audience and grow their customer base.

Consumers benefit from targeting, too. When there are clear rules and guardrails in place for tracking and targeting, shoppers enjoy a more relevant online experience and a panoply of ad-funded digital services.

Traditional ads still have a place in the marketing mix, of course. But the future of marketing is digital. Online ad spend is expected to surpass traditional ad spend (likely for good) this year.

How is it that targeting makes the consumer internet better?

Improved Efficiency

“Disruption” may be too widely used in the tech community, yet real disruption is taking place in the consumer economy — much of it enabled by targeted advertising.

Take a “digital-first” brand like underwear company MeUndies. Once upon a time, niche businesses like MeUndies would have to cozy up to retailers or court a celebrity endorsement to have any hope of getting noticed. 

Thanks to targeted ads, though, MeUndies can reach its ideal customer — probably an 18-to-34-year-old male who identifies as an “early adopter” — on digital platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. 

Social networks allow for granular control of budgets, as well as audiences, so the MeUndies of the world can afford to use data and lookalikes to find customers on social and scale niche audiences.

Big brands stand to benefit from targeting as well. While Macy’s may broadly advertise sales on TV, the retailer can use digital to speak differently to different audiences, giving them a more personalized voice with which to reach the end user.

Enhanced Engagement

MeUndies came immediately to mind for me not only because it’s one of my favorite brands but also because I never would have found out about them were it not for targeted social ads.

As consumers, we aren’t necessarily used to brands approaching us with a personalized message. Instead, many of us still think of the internet as a one-way thing. However, that is no longer the case, as we can now get information about products or services before we even realize we have a need. 

Most of the time, after all, there isn’t a clear trigger that leads to a purchase action. What targeted ads let brands do is parse through reams of data on consumer behavior, then capitalize on any underlying purchase signals that may exist. 

Fundamentally, targeting is about getting to know consumers better and meeting them where they are with a compelling message. Think of them almost like a concierge service for getting introduced to new products, many of which consumers wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

Full Transparency

Where things can get dicey is in what advertisers (or platforms) know and how they collect that data. Here, there is obvious room for improvement.

As a society, we need to take a closer look at disclosure requirements and improving transparency so it’s clear how the system works. Marketers, meanwhile, need to do a better job of helping the public understand when and how their data is used.

Many of these changes are already in the works. Over the past year, GDPR in Europe forced a rethink of disclosure rules among all aspects of the advertising value chain. In the US, the regulatory approach has been more of a patchwork, but it should just be a matter of time before stricter rules come into effect.

As we improve how we guard privacy and educate people about data gathering, it will be important to strike the right balance. Eliminating targeting entirely would make for a much more generic internet — think billboards, instead of beacons. 

Evolution always presents challenges, but data fuels a lot of positive outcomes. As long as advertisers and platforms take steps to safeguard people’s private information, data can continue to deliver value across the digital ecosystem. 

Dan Borger is an Account Director, Social, at iQuanti. Dan leads iQuanti’s engagement with major media brands, overseeing holistic cross-channel strategy and audience development. Additionally, he spearheads strategic development and implementation of holistic search strategy to optimize presence and expand footprint. Prior to iQuanti, he worked at Bloomingdale’s, where he oversaw international and tourism marketing, and SocialCode, where he led the firm’s key retail accounts and strategy. Previous clients included Tory Burch, Michael Kors, Barney’s, Hermes and Make Up For Ever.