Reaching your target audience has always been one of the key fundamentals of successful marketing

In TV advertising reach and frequency into a target audience is ingrained into the media buying process, yet many brands struggle with their audience strategy, particularly when it comes to buying media online in multiple channels.

These challenges have been brought into focus by the recent pandemic, where dramatic changes in consumer behaviour have resulted in media plans needing to be shifted significantly. Without an audience framework to fall back on, or the ability to analyse how a core audience has changed over time, many brands have struggled to adapt.

Now more than ever brands need to transform their audience analysis and execution capabilities. By working with data from both within and beyond the organisation, brands can transform their marketing effectiveness and ability to deal with change. As we look to the future it seems likely that emerging from the pandemic we will see more significant shifts in consumer behaviour, as restrictions are lifted but also with the long-lasting effects of lockdown. Technology and legislative change around the use of data will also add further pressure to creaking setups. Brands more than ever need to transform their audience analysis and execution capabilities.

Without an effective framework and the right tools, translating a world of retargeting, keywords, and lookalikes into an effective audience targeting strategy has not been easy. Yet by addressing the challenge and working with data from both within and beyond the organisation, brands can transform their marketing effectiveness and ability to deal with change.

Taking an Audience First Approach

Many organisations make the mistake of jumping straight into using digital activity such as paid search, social or programmatic, particularly for direct response activity. Based on the algorithm capabilities and user-friendly environments, these platforms make buying media easy. However, time and time again, we speak to clients who recognise that their platforms are not driving profitable audiences or that their spend is not delivering desired outcomes.

The first step should be to define your target audiences and relevant messages for those audiences. To truly understand what audience to focus resources and marketing budgets on, using your 1st 2nd and 3rd party data is an important foundational step, regardless of whether activity is online or offline. Without 2nd and 3rd party data, you will only have insights to your current customers and no visibility of where your new customers will come from.

Only once core audiences have been identified, and relevant segments are created and ranked based on affinity to your products and services, can the right mix of channels and messaging be identified. Audiences will look very different for branding campaigns compared to performance and direct response campaigns, which require in market audiences, who are already interested in your product/services. Translating the selected audiences into channel activity is a vital phase in the successful marketing process that requires effective tools and talent to achieve.

Clear and Effective Success Metrics

“If you can’t measure it you can’t improve it.” This famous quote from Peter Drucker is never truer than when applied to advertising. The metrics used to evaluate performance need to be carefully selected to ensure they fit the campaign’s short and long-term objectives.

Branding activity needs to be focused on maximising engagement towards your target audience. Measuring video views, dwell time, or engagement with the advert combined with reach and frequency of an advert is the most effective when measuring branding activity.

Performance campaigns should go beyond short term metrics such as clicks or last click sales. Whilst these metrics can provide a directional view, they need to be balanced with end results such as post-view conversions and the value of customer converted. It is crucial that incrementality and lifetime customer value is built into the measurement apparatus so that brands can work out the true return on their ad spend.

Measuring and refining: human vs machine

Driving efficiencies and measuring performance should be an ongoing effort during and post campaign execution. These days, platforms allow advanced bidding and optimisation algorithms which are very powerful when used as a part of your data and execution strategy.

However, with increased technological advances in platforms, we often see over-reliance in isolated channel optimisation techniques which are driven by media platforms, that don’t often take into account the entire media mix and longer-term organisational goals. There is a definite need to balance the power of machine learning for measurement with softer people and planning skills and expertise while looking at the marketing cycle in its entirety.

Cross Channel Audience Execution

We have seen good examples of brands mastering audience buying well, in some single-channel activities, for example online paid social platforms such as Facebook where Audiences can be set up directly.

However, not all channels are this straightforward. Paid Search platforms, which accounts for around half of global digital ad spend, does not allow for third party audiences to be used. As the audience strategy needs to be translated to keyword selection as well as “bid modifiers” around geo-location, time and device. This is vital as properly setup paid search is the leading platform for finding “in market audiences” at a keyword level.

Matters are further complicated the more channels are added, making a consistent Audience strategy challenging. Online Video connected TV and digital out of home all require different techniques to ensure a consistent audience approach. With the right data and tools though success is possible with location-based audience planning a vital common currency.

Experian Audience Framework

The journey towards effective use of both 1st party owned data alongside 3rd party data across channels is not linear, and this is further clouded by the evolving consumer attitudes and buying behaviours we are currently observing during these uncertain times.

At Experian we have identified four key stages which may help when navigating through these challenges:

We have created a short online assessment, using our expertise and best practices we’ve seen from leading organisations, which may help advertisers in providing insights on how to approach these stages, and leverage data effectively across channels.

This is for general guidance and only considers certain angles of marketing effectiveness. Great marketing comes in different shapes and sizes and other perspectives should be evaluated alongside data planning and strategy.

If you are an advertiser and currently investing across traditional and digital channels and would like to learn more about your data, insights, media planning and campaign execution style and where potentially you may need to allocate additional resources, do take the online assessment today.