Huddle 2018 - Content Hub

The evolution of targeted advertising, where will it go?

By Eoin Greensmyth, Sales Manager, Sizmek 

You’re standing in a room. You’re told that if you’re between the ages of 18 to 24 to stand up, take a look around and then sit back down. Next up, if you’re between 25 to 30, you get to your feet. If you take another look, is this group different to the first? It is, isn’t it? But equally, no two people are the same. 

In the past for some brands, demographic brackets were enough to assume that they had reached their target audience. Nowadays, however, the level of insight that’s needed to do this can be whittled down to a micro level. 

This was the theme of discussion at our Huddle session last week ‘Prince of the Realms or Prince of Darkness?’ We explored the idea that, although two men may fit a demographic – being born in the same year, from the UK, of extensive wealth – it does not mean that they would both be the perfect consumer for a brand to target. 

Audience segmentation is by all means a good starting point and has been yielding respectable results for years. But we also now have the benefits of technological advancements that allow us to model our campaign targeting on a brand’s existing customers. After all, who could be a better representation of your potential future customer than someone who is already spending money with you? 

We can now go beyond age and gender and pull on different buying signals and understand contextual relevance, time of day for particular users and frequency of ads that work for certain users, all to help build a more accurate picture of an individual. For some of us operating in today’s advertising world, this now feels normal and is standard approach. 

In a GDPR-first world, we need to look beyond the classic segmentation approach. Consumers now have greater control over how their data is shared and therefore what they see; brands don’t want to lose audience share on “opt-outs” so it’s even more important for the right ad to reach the right person.  

There are other advances in personalised targeting, including voice recognition and the ‘always on microphones’ in our phones. This posed a live interactive debate about ‘where we draw the line’ when it comes to ad targeting. 

Voice recognition has become increasingly present, with consumers using their voice assistants to ask any number of questions about everything from the weather or traffic information, or even to undertake simple actions like playing the radio and buying products online. Most of these things aren’t alarming, and even – some argue – are the biggest leap forward in convenience that we’ve seen in recent years. But the revelations that we are not only being listened to when we give commands has caused concern within the tech industry. 

An example which drew surprise from the audience was that of a colleague of mine, who was discussing Command Strips – a very niche product, some might say – only to then have it appear as the top banner on their Amazon page 30 seconds later. The same occurred when another colleague was discussing personalised t-shirts and had adverts for customised t-shirts served to them almost immediately afterwards. 

What we saw was a divide among the group. Some believed it to be far too intrusive because the ads were served almost immediately, and it was too noticeable that they were being listened to. If the ad had been served a day later, it perhaps would have felt less intrusive; rather a helpful and a seamless form of advertising. 

Others argued that five years ago, people felt that ads based on search history were too invasive. Yet if we fast forward to today, it is very much the norm. What’s more, we have surpassed this and moved towards predictive forms of advertising. 

Understanding your browsing behaviour is one thing, but listening in on your personal conversations is another. Is this latest capability of voice recognition a step too far, or will it be the norm in years to come? It’s all down to sensible execution and use of the technology. 

What is crystal clear, is that the days when brands could put consumers into a few buckets and leave it at that are long gone. The technology and tools available are far more advanced than many brands and advertisers might realise. 

Ultimately, the common consensus was that all forms of targeting and advertising need to be done in the right way. Advertising when done well, delights, intrigues and make people’s lives better. There is a wealth of data out there to enable brands to do this, but they need to know where to look and who to ask for help.