Targeting Has Never Been Less Important Than in 2019

. 3 min read

By: Tom Murray | Managing Director, Agency

It might sound weird for someone in marketing to say that targeting has never been less important than it is today, but that is the case that I am making today. Agencies love to talk about persona targeting strategies that are extremely tailored to your specific consumer, often times naming the prototypical consumer like “Jen” or “Andrea” or “Brian”. Media plans are then constructed around reaching these fictitious people. How many times have you heard of a target consumer, who we’ll call them Andrea, is a 42 year old female, that has 2 kids, with a household income of $50K-100K and is college educated. Sometimes these personas have even more qualifications, and with more qualifications comes “target shrinking,” where our targets ultimately are just a small percentage of the population, when in fact the target audience is typically much larger and broader than the primary target.

Procter & Gamble was one of the first brands to come out and say publicly that targeting was not effective for their brand awareness marketing, instead opting for more mass-reach targeting options such as broad demographic targeting. This created a stir in the industry, with people flocking to the above WSJ article claiming that Facebook or digital marketing didn’t work, which was vastly overblown. However, P&G was onto something, in that targeting has become the least important of what we call the Performance Triangle, which consists of the targeting, creative and the landing page of an ad.

Every marketer has access to the same types of targeting, whether it be interests, behaviors, or 3rd party data. This means that no matter what agency you work with, there is no magical targeting approach that one can leverage that another agency can’t. This makes creative and the landing page an even bigger piece of the equation, as we see that these two elements have the most impact on performance. Differentiation can be massive on these two fronts compared to targeting.

At Jump, we are data-driven performance marketers and rely on data to help us make proper decisions. What we have found in the data, is that targeting is not the silver bullet that it once was. A lot of this is because two of the major platforms – Facebook and Google – have been pushing towards broader targeting for maximum algorithmic success. Both with Facebook’s release of Dynamic Ads for Broad Audiences (DABA) and Google’s release of Smart Campaigns / UAC Campaigns, targeting has gotten extremely broad, allowing the pixels and algorithms of the platforms the freedom to find likely converters. These broader approaches have been extremely successful, as the platforms now reward broadness. A byproduct of this approach also is increased scale, because the target audiences are much larger, so when a winner is found, it is easy to increase the budget in the winning pockets.

To give an example of this in action, we tested niche targeting against broad targeting and saw some surprising results. The client for this example sells dog food, so naturally the targeting revolved around dog owners (3rd party data), dog lovers & dog food brands (native interests), which is logical to try to only target dog owners as anyone who does not have a dog wouldn’t have any use for dog food. **We tested this target against a completely broad target (adults 25-54) and saw that the broad target had a 2X lower cost-per-acquisition than the highly targeted audiences! **By allowing Facebook in this case to leverage its pixel data to find likely consumers, we were able to cut through a pool of 100 million people easily and efficiently compared to a pool of 10 million people that were “more qualified”.

The moral of the story is that targeting is not the end all be all of a campaign anymore. It happens to be the easiest lever to pull as you can change out targeting instantaneously, which makes it an easy topic of conversation between agencies and brands. Effecting change on a landing page or on the creative side often times is a much longer and more difficult conversation, but these elements will drive higher impact and is worth spending more time on compared to targeting. Now, this is not to say that broad targeting always works, but it is something you should definitely be testing!