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Ad Targeting: Know When to Stop

Marketing

There is an ongoing problem in the advertising industry with which we, as consumers, are all a little too comfortable. It can most accurately be described as “overtargeting.” You know what I’m talking about: you and your wife book flights on United Airlines for your honeymoon in Europe and make a reservation for four nights at the Ritz-Carlton in London. It’s done. The trip is confirmed. The purchases are complete. And yet…is that a display ad for the Ritz on the side of your browser window? Probably. Did a video for United just play before that YouTube clip? Almost definitely. So why do advertisers continue to target (and annoy) the segments of their audience that have already converted, while other segments remain entirely unreached or ignored? Without attribution, advertisers do not know when to stop.

Needless to say, this is not the best use of an advertising budget. That money tree we’re all on the hunt for has yet to be discovered, so throwing valuable resources at the wrong audience is generally considered a wasteful process. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Many advertisers and marketing teams are simply unaware of the fact that there are readily available tools and solutions that would solve this pervasive problem for them.

It all comes down to the niche of marketing technology known as attribution. Comprehensive customer path attribution models use vast supplies of data to track consumer behavior and advertising exposures through marketing touch points, both on and offline, across channels and devices. So, let’s say you watch a commercial for Gap jeans, and then see a Gap ad on your phone, before going to the Gap website on your tablet to place your order. Attribution models are able to track that path and assign accurate credit for the role each component played in your final purchase. As such, they’re also able to note which consumers made those purchases, and then temporarily remove them from that brand’s marketing targets. Suddenly, overtargeting becomes a thing of the past and ad budgets are being directed only at the consumers who will truly benefit from the reminders.

We’ve all become incredibly used to ad targeting, but when the practice is overdone, it quickly crosses a line. No matter how wonderful an ad is, there really can be too much of a good thing, and showing that work of creative genius to a customer who bought the product two days ago is a pretty good example. Marketers, you have an easy solution right at your fingertips: implement effective attribution, learn the impact of your marketing efforts from start to finish, and finally start getting bang for your buck across the board.

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