Audience Targeting Big, Getting Bigger

At least 80 percent of agencies, intermediaries and marketers embrace audience targeting, according to a new State of the Industry Study by Digiday and eXelate. Digiday surveyed more than 875 agencies, marketers and networks, exchanges or DSPs and found that not only is audience targeting critical for most online marketers, but that they plan to spend more on data in the coming year.

The increased spending is aimed at clarifying the already vast amounts of data marketers wrestle with now. According to the study, one third of brands said their team understands audience targeting and is big on metrics but doesn’t always apply what they learn to every campaign.

“There is so much data out there and so many people working in the data space,” said one respondent. “It is difficult to know what is valid and reliable and who you can trust to really target correctly.”

Others said that standardization of audience segments would help, as would being able to “consistently target the same way across media types and formats.” Another added, “The quality of the data and ease of using this data [is my pain point]. Integrating offline and online data is also difficult.”

In presenting the results Wednesday to agencies at the Digiday Agency Summit, David Fischer, eXelate SVP of sales, said agencies will need trusted data, custom audiences and high-performance data to win new business and meet client goals.

While most marketers tend to talk about data as one homogeneous mass, Fischer said that there are three kinds of data: third-party data, custom data, and validated data — data that is “validated by industry organizations to eliminate inefficiencies in demographic data and optimize audience clusters.”

While all three groups of respondents said they use third-party data, respondents were more enthusiastic about using custom data when planning targeted campaigns. According to the survey, 43 percent of agencies, 46 percent of brand marketers and 58 percent of network, exchanges and DSPs all rated custom data highest for targeting direct campaigns. Likewise, 36 percent of marketers and 58 percent of networks, exchanges and DSPs valued custom data highest for targeting branding efforts.

Each of these groups reported different data-driven KPIs for their targeted campaigns, and each had different impressions of how well a given plan worked. Agencies said when they apply audience data to campaigns, they’re looking for online sales. Networks, exchanges and DSPs said they’re after a measurable lift in brand awareness. And marketers said still value a click through to a site or landing page above all.

All three segments — 68 percent of agencies, 84 percent of networks, exchanges and DSPs, and 62 percent of marketers — say their budget for data will increase in the coming year. Marketers project a 27 percent increase on average, smartly in line with agencies’ estimate of a 26 percent rise. Networks, exchanges and DSPs project the largest increase of 44 percent.

As with their KPIs, each group’s justification for spending more on audience data varied considerably: 68 percent of agencies said using data to target advertising is efficient and helps them allocate their clients’ ad spending more intelligently. Seventy-eight percent of networks, exchanges and DSPs said that data is strategic and helps them discern useful insights. And 70 percent of marketers said that their data investment is tactical and helps them identify more people like their best customers.

To learn more about how the digital marketing industry is bringing together data and audience targeting, download the full results here.

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