How to Target People—Not Devices

by Phil Acton

Posted on 01-10-2018

As omnichan­nel adver­tis­ing gains an even stronger foothold, the talk of “tar­get­ing peo­ple, not devices” has become more and more preva­lent. And it makes sense.

Though “Tar­get­ing peo­ple, not devices” has come to be sort of a throw-away term, at its heart, it’s quite a mean­ing­ful phrase. Boiled down, it means cre­at­ing adver­tis­ing that offers rel­e­vant, tar­get­ed con­tent to a spe­cif­ic, niche audi­ence no mat­ter where, when, or how it’s viewed.

Let’s look at an exam­ple per­son­al to me. Say my beloved Ever­ton Foot­ball Club wants to make sure I see an ad for their brand­ed mer­chan­dise. They show the ad to me three times on my lap­top at work, once on my mobile Face­book news­feed on my train ride home, and again on my iPad when I’m home sit­ting on the sofa. But what if I’ve bought a team shirt some­where along the way? Or a scarf? How can they make sure I’m not retar­get­ed on dif­fer­ent devices for some­thing I’ve just bought? More impor­tant­ly, how can they tar­get me for addi­tion­al items that I’m like­ly to buy instead?

The sort of cross-device mar­ket­ing can be high­ly effective—if it’s done right. You need the right data to hone in on and learn about your spe­cif­ic audi­ence seg­ments, you need it to cre­ate fan­tas­tic and rel­e­vant con­tent that speaks to those seg­ments, and final­ly, you need it to deliv­er that con­tent at the exact right time in their buy­ing journey.

The data is out there, but when it’s spread across dis­parate plat­forms and work­ing in silos, it hin­ders rather than helps. The solu­tion is find­ing a way to merge your walled-off data to deliv­er a more com­pre­hen­sive pic­ture that can dri­ve results.

If we want our mes­sages to come across effec­tive­ly and res­onate with con­sumers, we need to tai­lor them to that unique audi­ence segment—their demo­graph­ic, their buy­ing habits, their inter­ests, and their place in the sales funnel—not the phone, tablet, or com­put­er they’re using.

From a finan­cial stand­point, there’s an even big­ger rea­son to fig­ure out this dilem­ma, and that’s wast­ed ad spend.

How can you ensure your ads aren’t retar­get­ing the same user who just bought your prod­uct on a dif­fer­ent device or plat­form, essen­tial­ly ren­der­ing your ads inef­fec­tive? How can you keep your ad expe­ri­ences seam­less and con­tin­u­ous as your tar­get buy­ers switch from device to device? And how can you main­tain accu­ra­cy in report­ing and ana­lyt­ics when all your ad data is seg­re­gat­ed and cor­doned off?

These are the chal­lenges today’s omnichan­nel mar­keters are deal­ing with—and there are cer­tain­ly some hur­dles stand­ing in the way.

The Challenge

When I start­ed in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing back in 2003, things were a lot sim­pler. There was no social media, TV hadn’t gone dig­i­tal, and smart­phones weren’t even on the radar. Dis­play ads were bought like tra­di­tion­al media buys, and if you want­ed to run search cam­paigns in the UK, you did so via Over­ture or Espotting.

While some argue that the change from sin­gle-chan­nel to mul­ti­chan­nel strat­e­gy has been grad­ual, it seems pro­gram­mat­ic buy­ing has explod­ed in recent years. Now, dig­i­tal TV for­mats are the norm, and mar­keters use soft­ware to buy ads across all medi­ums. It’s just the way the adver­tis­ing world works now.

Tech has cer­tain­ly made ad buy­ing eas­i­er, to an extent, but it hasn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly made it more effec­tive. When you throw in the sheer vol­ume of con­nect­ed devices, the mod­ern mar­keter is faced with a mas­sive chal­lenge: How do you mar­ry all the data you get from each of these cam­paigns? More impor­tant­ly, how do you use that data to ensure your adver­tis­ing hits peo­ple with the right mes­sage, at the right time on each device?

The Disparate Data Problem

The prob­lem isn’t that there are so many plat­forms. The big­ger issue is that most ad plat­forms are walled gardens—disparate and sequestered from your oth­er efforts. Their data is housed in a sep­a­rate ana­lyt­ics area, and they report con­ver­sions, reach, and ROI just a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent­ly than the next platform.

This makes it dif­fi­cult to effec­tive­ly man­age ad spend across chan­nels and near­ly impos­si­ble to get true insights into the effi­ca­cy of your cam­paigns overall—as well as what you could do to improve it.

It’s not just a hypo­thet­i­cal issue, either. Accord­ing to an Adobe Dig­i­tal Adver­tis­ing Report, 41 per­cent of mar­keters use three or more media-buy­ing plat­forms, three or more media-plan­ning plat­forms, and three or more ana­lyt­ics plat­forms. Take a minute and con­sid­er: How like­ly is it that these mar­keters aren’t see­ing dupli­cate con­ver­sions in their reports? Or a skewed pic­ture of their reach? Or just bad insights in general?

The grow­ing num­ber of plat­forms today’s mar­keters use ulti­mate­ly makes their job more dif­fi­cult. Man­ag­ing reach, fre­quen­cy, and con­ver­sions across an entire media buy is vir­tu­al­ly impos­si­ble, because rec­on­cil­ing data and report­ing across chan­nel just isn’t feasible—at least using most tools on the market.

A Necessary Evil

Find­ing a way to tar­get peo­ple across all devices and expe­ri­ences is cru­cial, not just for efficacy’s sake, but also because con­sumers have come to expect it. The aver­age adult inter­acts with at least two screens per day, and accord­ing to stats, mil­len­ni­als alone will spend more than $600 bil­lion just this year across 5.5 devices.

Most of the time, those con­sumers are using the same sites, apps, and pro­grams across their dis­parate devices. Nev­er­the­less, they expect the expe­ri­ence to be seamless—to pick up where they left off on device one, two, three, or even four.

It seems the major­i­ty of con­sumers aren’t get­ting that, just yet. Accord­ing to a recent sur­vey, only 28 per­cent of con­sumers feel they’re receiv­ing rel­e­vant ad experiences—though near­ly 80 per­cent say they want them.

That leaves a lot of room for improve­ment, and the key to that lies in how we man­age, merge, and use the dis­parate data and plat­forms today’s adver­tis­ing envi­ron­ment requires. Can it be done? And if so, what tools can we use to get there?

Is It Even Possible?

Align­ing data prop­er­ly cer­tain­ly seems like a pipe dream for many mar­keters. What’s required is a mar­ried solu­tion, such as Adobe’s Demand Side Plat­form (DSP) and Data Man­age­ment Plat­form (DMP), which can blend data from every source imag­in­able to give you a big­ger, more com­pre­hen­sive pic­ture of your over­all ad strate­gies and ad spend.

Tools such as these can extract data from your web­site ana­lyt­ics, cus­tomer rela­tion­ship man­age­ment data, offline store data, or even part­ner data from cred­it card providers and the like, using it to com­pile rich­ly detailed audi­ence seg­ments. Because Adobe has such a large ecosys­tem of prod­ucts and ser­vices, DSP and DMP can also utilise data from the mil­lions of anony­mous cook­ies that it drops on browsers across the world, giv­ing you even more insights.

Thanks to its inte­gra­tion with the Ad Cloud, you can use your cus­tom audi­ence seg­ments in real-time to cre­ate and launch search, social, dis­play, video, or TV cam­paign. And final­ly, with fea­tures that let you cap your fre­quen­cy rates (at the audi­ence lev­el, not the less effec­tive device lev­el), you can even ensure you’re not wast­ing ad spend on dis­in­ter­est­ed con­sumers or ones who already purchased.

The Final Word

What­ev­er tools you choose, in the end, the key to tar­get­ing peo­ple, not devices, in today’s omnichan­nel, pro­gram­mat­ic mar­ket­ing land­scape is cohe­sion between efforts. And once you tap that? The result is a bet­ter expe­ri­ence for both the con­sumer and mar­keter and, most impor­tant­ly, a high­er ROI.

Topics: Digital Transformation, data analytics, omnichannel advertising, Programmatic Advertising, UK, UK Exclusive, Digital EMEA