Digital Targeting

Digital 101: What is digital targeting?

How to find the right digital audience for your ads

We’ve covered the privacy changes at Google and Apple extensively on this blog, including the impetus for phasing out 3rd-party cookies on Chrome, Apple requiring apps to obtain user permission before tracking IDFA, and what the changes mean for advertisers. But many of our readers who are not in the trenches of paid media may still be saying, “wait, what are cookies and how do they work?” or asking, “then what are my audience targeting options?” So, we decided to take a step back and get back to the basics.

In the next few posts, we’ll review types of data, digital media, and digital targeting, including 3rd party data alternatives that still allow for targeted advertising. We hope the information will be helpful as we adapt to the fast-changing digital world.

We’ll begin with the concept of digital targeting to find the audience most likely to engage with your brand. The following primary digital activation categories align with distinct targeting methods.

Digital Targeting

  1. Programmatic: Runs anywhere the target audience is found. These are the ads that appear because they are purchased in an aggregated, automated way.
  2. Contextual: Runs on specific websites or content based on the topics that you know are important to the audience you’re trying to reach. When they’re category-specific (e.g. agriculture), we call them endemic, but they can also be other site-direct buys, like aligning with weather content.
  3. Social: Identified through sharing and dialogue, but also user-supplied information.
  4. Search or Intent: Targets hand-raisers based on biddable keywords.

This brings us to data – the valuable tool that makes targeting possible. While some of this data can be layered with other tactics, it is most largely applied in programmatic to purchase a highly specific audience.

  • Geo – IP address data makes geo-targeting possible, ensuring that your message runs only in a specific geography. Geo-targeting can be done broadly at a state level or narrowly by zip code. This is not the same as geo-fencing, which sets a tight perimeter around a defined location or set of locations and serves ads to users once they have entered the fence (and after) based on data derived from GPS, RFID, Wi-Fi, or cellular data.
  • 1st party – Also called advertiser data, 1st party data is information that a brand collects directly from their customers or site visitors and activates on for the purpose of retargeting site visitors with personalized ads. 1st party data is considered the most valuable data because it comes directly from the source, so you know it’s accurate and, because it comes straight from your audience, you know it’s relevant to your business. Another benefit of 1st party data is that there are minimal privacy concerns because you know exactly what permissions were agreed to.
  • 2nd party – Also called publisher data, 2nd party data is someone else’s first party data. Similar to the data an advertiser might have, publishers have data about their own customers or subscribers and those who visit their website. That is the value exchange for accessing free content. Because 2nd party data is purchased directly from the company that owns it , there is quality transparency.
  • 3rd party – This data is information collected by a non-affiliated website or service that is then aggregated and sold. A large amount of 3rd party data is collected by ad tech vendors tracking users across websites via cookies and aggregating behavioral information to sell to advertisers. Other data may be based on surveys, purchases, or search keywords. The big downside with 3rd party data is that there is less transparency because you don’t always know how it was sourced or defined, it’s not exclusive, and the quality can be hit or miss. There is high quality data out there, but you have to be careful when selecting vendors to find out exactly what data they’re using as their sources.

An effective digital campaign will likely include a mix of multiple data types, depending on the objective. First-party data is best for customer retention and cross-selling, and 2nd and 3rd party data can identify prospects and increase reach. Meaningful impact requires a truly integrated approach, where a solid creative strategy inspires compelling messaging that anchors a campaign and resonates with the target audience.

In our next post we’ll review digital media classifications: the types of digital ads you can run once you’ve identified and located your audience.

R+K’s Maggie Mattheessen, Digital Supervisor, Paid Media, contributed to this post. If you would like to learn more about how Rhea + Kaiser can help put your brand in front of its target audience, contact our Business Development Director gtomaro@rkconnect.com.

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