A better form of digital targeting

Andy Gallagher is Vice President of Targeting & Media at Kantar Millward Brown
Andy Gallagher is Vice President of Targeting & Media at Kantar Millward Brown

Do you feel haunted by your online behaviour, constantly followed by the same banner ads? Andy Gallagher at Kantar Millward Brown says brands will have the tools to improve the user experience in 2017.

Surely there must be a better way to advertise online. The whole experience can be awful for the consumer. However, if the ad industry gets a couple of things right, interruption doesn’t have to mean irritation.

Most consumers’ experience of programmatic is dominated by retargeting. The last-click, performance led and, undeniably effective, method of encouraging us to take action. All too often, however, these messages continue to follow us even when we’ve made our purchase decision.

But it’s not just performance marketers using these techniques, brand marketers are using the same technology too. What’s wrong is that consumers are being targeted on the basis of a single point of data be it behaviour-based (e.g. websites visited, items in a shopping cart) or broad demographic categories (e.g. men aged 18 to 49).

That approach leaves programmatic operating very much at the end of the purchase cycle, the moment when consumers are in market or have already made their purchase.

Programmatic prerequisites

Making programmatic work more effectively for everyone requires an infusion of data sources such as brand preference, mindset and topic interest as these become reformatted to work with programmatic targeting engines.

By combining this new data with the demographic and behavioural data that has always been available, marketers will be able to trigger a revolution in targeting that respects consumers by presenting them with more relevant – and less irritating – messaging.

It also makes it easier for advertisers to identify the most addressable audiences for communication while they are deciding on brand preference and before they move towards the moment of purchase.

In addition, the ability to reach consumers mid-way through their purchase cycle allows brands to find a better balance between precision and intrusion.

The good news is that the tools that can enable this new approach have been developed and are already being tested.

For example, tests on Holiday Inn Hotel campaigns in the US, which incorporated brand preference alongside demographics and purchase behaviour, demonstrate the clear benefit of this approach and its power to drive performance.

Making it work for you

Brand data was used to identify consumers who were open and willing to staying with Holiday Inn Hotels. Analysis of these consumers’ brand affinity, behaviours, and likes enabled the company to identify 15m proxies. Targeted with online ads, this group demonstrated a 514% uplift in bookings, compared to an identical control group.

To take advantage of this new potential, brands will have to answer two key questions:

Firstly, they will have to take a stronger grip on which data sources are the right ones. Programmatic exchanges are already swimming in data be it gender, retargeting options or proxies for category interest. Brand affinity data will simply be another source.

Sophisticated brands will find ways to identify which ones and crucially which combinations of data best serve their purpose and make the consumer experience more engaging as well as more effectively targeted.

Secondly, they need to be clear about the degree of targeting that is appropriate for their brands/products and services. Creating the right balance of data points is an art as much as a science but one fact is clear: layer in too many different variables can create narrow niche targets that are ineffective for reaching your full consumer base. There has been pushback in 2016 around over-targeting in different advertiser verticals such as FMCG, most publicly in the case of P&G.

Understanding and measuring the effectiveness of the right blend of data is crucial. This means that knowing the nuances of digital behaviour, purchase history, and the power of brand affinity can be the difference in effective targeting and conversion.

As a general rule, brands that operate in a researched, high-interest category or those that command a significant price premium are more likely to need to target. Brands operating in frequent purchase categories, for example soap or food items, where consumers are constantly in market have less need for targeting.

The bottom line for marketers is that there is a proven, strong relationship between brand awareness and trial. Taking a new approach to programmatic and moving the message to mid cycle enables them to reach out to a wider group of like-minded consumers.

This will allow brands to build brand awareness, while also delivering a better balance between precision and intrusion. The result should be more effective and cost-efficient targeting for advertisers and a better web experience for consumers.

Andy Gallagher is vice president of targeting and media at Kantar Millward Brown.

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