Dump Your Demos

Credit: Pawel Czerwinski
Credit: Pawel Czerwinski

Why assumptions are killing campaigns.

I’ve never used an ad blocker. I honestly fill out every preroll survey that asks me about the ads I’ve seen and the brands I prefer. Why? 

I want advertisers to win me over. I want to see brilliant, well-targeted creative. I want to be inspired by collective wit, well-timed messages and brilliant targeting. 

For the most part, I’m disappointed.

Whatever collective assumptions ad buying platforms are making about this married Xennial cat mom in her downtown apartment, they’re missing the mark. Even YouTube — with the treasure trove of viewership and subscription data it’s collected from our living room television — struggles to consistently deliver relevant ads.

It’s easy to want to forgive the ad platforms. Perhaps I’m an odd case. Perhaps my purchase patterns of champagne and frozen pizza befuddle profilers. Which segment of 30-something urban women would possibly splurge on vacations and spas, but never fashion or perfumes? Who hordes metal dice but not fine metal jewelry?

Consider your own interests and purchase behaviors, and the ads you’d actually be interested in seeing.  Unless your online browsing behavior is a dead giveaway, you’re likely not seeing the ads you’d be most interested in seeing. 

Why? Because, as an industry, we hold onto demos, personas and assumptions of who our audience is and what they want.  

Those assumptions are killing our campaigns.

As the advertising industry faces dwindling tracking data as user privacy improves, the temptation to rely on audience assumptions is stronger than ever. However, we must resist the urge to artificially define our audiences and instead seek to understand them at a deeper level. 

Your audience is more than an age, gender, geo, HHI, education level or any other arbitrary demographic classification. They are people with a kaleidoscope of interests that will defy personas and confuse campaign targeting.

Stop labeling. Dump your demos and listen. Listen to what people say, pay attention to what those words truly mean, follow where those conversations flow — and respond when the moment and placement are right. 

Barbie Koelker is VP of marketing at Spiketrap.

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