Targeted Advertising in the Digital World
Updated: Nov 2, 2021
Last week, the topic of advertisement companies listening in on private conversations came up between me and a friend. For instance, the other day I got an ad for the apartment building I live in, and my friend was saying that he got an ad for a drink he has been fond of lately. Although we were joking about this, it isn’t a coincidence. No, the government isn’t listening in on your drink preferences, there is a well-documented history of search engine marketing, social media targeting, and location-based targeting. Mostly everyone who uses the internet has experienced at least one form of these before, especially if you use the internet heavily. Since the 2000s, ad targeting has gotten expeditiously sophisticated, with advertisers catering to you based on a multitude of factors. This includes times you log on, your political leanings, and many more. This shouldn’t scare you though. The evolving world of business technology and online advertising should make your life easier.
The first thing you have to understand about targeted advertising is….. DON’T BE WEIRD! Like the story I gave in the beginning of the article, we don’t want to think some NSA agent is listening in on everything we want and desire in life, and then posting ads for us. Targeted advertising should be seamless for both the client, and the business. In other words, this should be a symbiotic relationship. I know this may sound contradicting, because I spent the previous paragraph talking about every single way you can be tracked over the internet. However, the key should be to find a happy medium. Advertising online should seek to find clients that would be interested in a product you are peddling, while also making sure the people you reach will understand their information being used for your advertising.
Here’s an example. Let’s say I went on ESPN, and an ad for a HULU subscription popped up. Logically, if I think about it, this makes sense. I already use Netflix and HBO Max, and I look up movies and TV shows on Google all the time. Now, let’s say I went on ESPN, and an ad for a specific show popped up. “Hey Levi, we noticed you’ve been watching Peaky Blinders lately. How about you try Sons of Anarchy? It’s similar and we think you would like it.” Well, this would be pretty weird. That information shouldn’t be available to anyone but Netflix. Why is a random ad on ESPN talking to me about shows I like? Isn’t this a breach of my 1st Amendment rights? Needless to say, I won’t be watching your show. So now that we’ve gotten not being weird out of the way, let’s get into how to actually target consumers without scaring them away.
Social media is the easiest way to use targeted advertisements on the internet today. For this article, we will be using Facebook to target consumers. If I go on the Facebook ad targeting website, I am given five categories to “define my audience.” This website describes that using these five categories, we can find our “core audience.” It claims that we will be able to “define an audience based on criteria like age, interests, geography and more.” For this example, we can say that we are running the advertising campaign for Levi’s Jeans. Using the five categories, we can evaluate what our core audience will be.
Location- Levi’s Jeans are sold in 110 countries around the world, with 55% of their revenue coming from the Americas. The US is their largest market. Therefore, we would target consumers logging on from countries where Levi’s jeans are more accessible.
Demographics- According to a CNBC article, women are a key growth target for Levi’s. Around two-thirds of premium denim are purchased by women, and Levi’s is worried that “athleisure” is taking away business from the Jeans market. So, Levi’s hopes to see a resurgence of jeans in the women’s demographic.
Interests- Using interests, the businessperson is able to personalize the “interests and hobbies of the people you want your ad to reach.” Basically, if you think there’s a trend between a certain hobby and jeans, you can attempt to advertise towards the participants of said hobby.
Behavior- By looking at the history of jeans purchases, we can evaluate the possibility of someone making a purchase with Levi’s. If the consumer has consistently bought and searched for jeans, Levi’s would be smart to target them for advertisement.
Connections- This feature allows us to target users who have been involved with our Facebook page in the past. This could include them following us, or simply interacting with the account. Interestingly enough, it could serve you better to exclude you from advertising. Think about it. If this person has already been on your page many times, does it benefit you to advertise towards them?
Digital ad targeting can be a balancing act, and it’s important that you don’t fall. However, it shouldn't be too stressful of an ordeal. As long as you know what product you have and who wants it, there should be no problem advertising towards people. Remember, ad targeting is a tool, not an enemy. So use it as such, and reap the benefits.