Taking a Data-First Approach to Online Advertising First Shaughnessy
When many people think of Online Advertising through channels like Facebook and Google, they typically walk through a pretty standard workflow:
- Determine the kinds of users you would like to advertise to
- In each platform, define and target down to those users (geography, behavior, demographics)
- Set a budget, launch the ad, cross your fingers
I think of this as almost a billboard-style approach. You find a road that’s popular and has the kinds of drivers you’d like to read your message, and that’s where you stick your advertisement. But in 2020, enterprise marketers shouldn’t feel limited to this billboard-style advertising. In this post, I’ll lay out an alternative approach — one where brands have control of their data and the message.
Moving Beyond the Billboard
There’s nothing wrong with targeting ads based on geography or basic audience demographic details. It’s not as targeted or personalized as you’d ideally be, but it gives you a great generalized approach and lets you play around with your audience and content mix.
Many marketers already understand their core group of consumers, and online ads are a great passive form of marketing to those key users, keeping your branding and messaging in front of them during their basic daily browsing. This helps you to stay relevant to consumers without ending up in their inbox and tempting them to unsubscribe; it feels like less of an intrusion to consumers because ads around the web and on social media aren’t viewed as “theirs” in the same way their email inbox and mobile phone are.
The issue, though, is that the spray-and-pray model doesn’t sync up with broader marketing efforts, making it difficult to understand how each consumer has been communicated with on each channel. This can result in an overall approach to marketing messaging that feels disjointed, and doesn’t use what you learn from one platform to influence the strategy on another. Think of it — how often have you received an ad for a product you just purchased? Or seen ads from a brand you enjoyed that didn’t remotely apply to you?
These poor experiences occur because marketers are being forced into showing general messages to broad audiences on many different channels. A far better solution is a data-first approach, wherein they specifically target users to be communicated with on each platform.
Using a Data-First Approach
What does this look like in practice? Let’s imagine a scenario:
Mary is an enterprise marketer working for a major consumer-facing brand. In her role, she’s responsible for managing communication programs to millions of customers across almost a dozen channels. Instead of setting high-level ad details for each of the platforms she’d like to advertise for, she should be controlling all of the data on her customers in-house in a performant modern data warehouse.
Using this data-first approach, she is able to understand how all of her users are interacting with the brand across all channels and then use this data to send custom lists of audiences to those platforms — examples of this are Google’s Customer Match and Facebook/Instagram’s Custom Audiences. Doing so helps her to both be more efficient in her spend, and more targeted in the way she messages to various audiences based upon what she knows about them.
For instance, if a customer purchased an item and received a confirmation email yesterday, that customer could then be excluded from today’s social communications but be included in a follow-up survey email to gauge their happiness with their purchase. By testing different audience workflows and managing impact across the entire spectrum of brand communication, Mary now has the ability to send much better and more effective marketing communications.
By investing in having the right customer data up front, marketers are able to better understand how their brand and marketing communications are actually influencing their audience. This approach absolutely does not have to be “all or nothing.” Every step you take toward being a data-forward marketing organization is a positive one, and no step is too small to potentially make a difference in your results.
Taking a data-first approach and experimenting with ad groups to different demographics will give marketers a much more nuanced perspective on how different creative is resonating with different groups of people. Overall, combining these perspectives results in more targeted and effective ads for the marketer and a much better experience for consumers — something we can all appreciate.