Amid the rapid emergence of programmatic, two unsettling issues have come to the fore that have since gobbled up much of the airtime -- fraud and viewability. The industry is in a frenzied rush to address both. Marketers have channeled millions of dollars to third parties to verify whether advertising is actually seen, and seen by a real person. And while these vendors endeavor to alleviate wasteful spending on empty impressions, there are even more impressions out there that are of no value to start with because they were wasted on the wrong person.
A wrong impression is a wasted impression
Targeting the wrong consumer to begin with is just as wasteful as serving an impression to a bot. That's why, in the rush to address fraud, we should apply the same rigorous focus we have on non-human traffic and viewability to finding new tools and solutions that connect marketers with the right consumers. If we want to know what percentage of impressions were actual humans, why not also demand to know which individual members of our target segment are the right fit for our brand, and which ones aren't? Not every person in a segment is the same and not every person is a good fit. If we are going to separate the winners from the losers, we need to stop relying on segments to guide our targeting.
What's wrong with segment targeting?
"Old-fashioned" audience segments are only as good as the amount data that powers them. To date, most demo segments are decided by a handful of imprecise factors -- age, gender, income, ZIP code. These criteria tell you little about who the consumer is.
Today, the opportunity exists to start with who the people are themselves. A people-based approach, based on verified identities, negates the need for broad segmentation and obfuscates the waste that goes along with it.
The generalizations of a demo audience segment made sense in their day, but in reality, people don't fit neatly into segments. Today's new world of data-driven targeting is giving way to a new targeting approach, one based on knowing who the actual prospect is and determining if they are likely to buy. And it has the potential to replace the now-outdated segmenting approach. People-based targeting is the answer to the waste caused by broader segment targeting and as a result, promises improved conversion rates and ROI for marketers in any vertical.
Turning to a people-based approach instead
A consumer's likelihood to convert is based on the confluence of thousands of factors -- far more than those represented in segments defined by age, gender, location, purchase history, and online behavior alone. Each person is different, and marketers can now understand what makes them a fit for their brand. By taking advantage of the technology that is available today, marketers are now more capable than ever of achieving a new and more nuanced understanding of the consumer and their intentions, based fundamentally on who they are, and understood as unique identities instead of generalized segments.
It comes full circle
People-based marketing allows marketers to not only identify and target their best prospects -- especially those that fly beneath the radar of the traditional segment -- but also enables them to solve for the aforementioned challenges facing digital marketers today:
- Non-human traffic: When you find real people, you find humans. With people-based marketing, the issue of non-human traffic is, by definition, not an issue. That goes a long way to addressing the preponderance of fraud noted above
- An engaged audience: Relevant targets means reaching people who want to view your ads. In this case, viewable ads aren't forced upon an audience, they're desired.
- Finally, knowing who your target consumer is opens the floodgates to all of the benefits of offline data that can't otherwise be associated with generalized segment profiles. These data points can radically differentiate an individual consumer, making it possible to target more of the right customers. Incorporating offline data helps to identify the people with a much higher likelihood of purchasing, and also reach any valuable consumers being missed today.
With all of these advantages, people-based marketing makes the "tried and true" segment approach appear out of date. People-based marketing paves the way for true waste-clearing. And once it's out of the way, the path will be clear to get back to that business of clearing out fraud and non-viewable "impressions," too.
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