Target’s 2017 back-to-school ads straddled a thin, difficult line for marketers: segmenting audiences without making assumptions. Crafting 15-second TV spots that featured lots of kids, lots of bright colors, and two languages, Target’s “Ready.Set.Prep!” campaign won a majority of back-to-school viewers, claiming 29 percent of viewers’ attention in a study.
Walmart, Target’s larger competitor, developed spots that were twice as long and only nabbed 17.6 percent of viewers’ attention. The difference? Target took a chance on segmenting English- and Spanish-speaking viewers without presuming too much based on one piece of information.
Acting on isolated information is dangerous for marketers. For example, what do Lady Gaga and Sarah Palin have in common? Not much, but Nielsen would tell you they’re both women between the ages of 25 and 54. And therein lies the inherent problem with traditional methods of segmenting audiences.
Nielsen used to provide the only data advertisers needed. Its system worked because TV didn’t have to compete with other platforms. But viewers today are more diverse and fragmented. They’ll stream “13 Reasons Why” on Netflix, watch a DVR recording of “The Big Bang Theory,” and finish the night with a live episode of “The Voice.” Using simple demographics to pin down viewers just won’t cut it anymore.
The question television marketing professionals now face is how to maximize the ROI of their media buying. They don’t want their ads to just reach eyeballs; they want them to reach the right eyeballs.
The answer lies in the growing web of big data — the big gun in the evolving digital marketing arsenal.
Audience Data Does What Pure Demographics Cannot
As the owner of a media-buying agency, I spend 90 percent of my time talking about data. It’s the future of TV, and the ability to harness it is a significant competitive advantage.
This data comes from all sorts of places. At Media Design Group, we take data from millions of set-top boxes and smart TVs and combine it with traditional buying tools to develop audience segments that drill down to a more qualified viewer. It’s changed the game. Even Nielsen has opened the door to adding local set-top box data to its mix.
Thanks to improvements in technology and the gigantic sum of information it provides, brands can target the right viewers — no matter where they are or what platform they’re using to view content. The data is out there; CMOs and marketers just need to know how to use it.
How to Use Data to Boost ROI
How can marketers use data to maximize their ad buying? There are several paths, and many of them can be used simultaneously.
- Develop precise target audiences.
If an ad needs to get in front of 40-year-old moms who have two kids, a minivan, and a labradoodle, addressable media is the way to find them. It provides a way to get closer to the ideal customer. Using household profile data, marketers can figure out which addressable-enabled homes represent their targets and deliver ads specifically to those houses. Although addressable media is more expensive than other methods, it’s worth it. Viewers will convert into customers at a significantly higher rate.
- Buy inventory programmatically.
Programmatic ad buying uses big data to identify granular audiences and autonomously buy spots to reach those audiences. The inventory isn’t substantial, but many networks and station groups are publishing what they have available through APIs. This makes it easier for promoters to buy up inventory.
If there’s a downside to PTV, it’s that it isn’t as accurate as addressable media. No matter how much data you pour into programmatic algorithms, there’s going to be wasted reach.\
- Advertise on over-the-top platforms.
Over-the-top media works well for media buyers. It allows cord cutters to bypass cable providers while still getting shows through internet channels like Hulu. This allows viewers to stay current on TV content without the time commitment of appointment television. Pivotal Research reported that connected TV viewing jumped 65 percent in 2016. Buying OTT space adds incremental reach to traditional TV campaigns and captures viewers who aren’t watching programs the way they did a generation ago.
- Don’t forget linear TV.
Just because a strategy is old doesn’t mean it has lost its value. The average adult still watches 4 1/2 hours of live TV a day. Despite the growth of digital platforms, traditional television is still the greatest influencer of consumer sentiment.
Behind all these strategies for media buying lies the behemoth that is big data. Viewers have an incredible number of options for how they consume content, thanks to the rapid growth of digital media. Without detailed data, finding these consumers is only going to become more difficult. If marketers understand and know how to use the data available to them, they’ll be able to reach any target audience — even those 25- to 54-year-old women like Lady Gaga and Sarah Palin.
Stacy Durand has been the CEO of Media Design Group since its inception, and her passion for the job is fueled by her pure love of the media business. Her career has always been about facilitating business growth exponentially and maximizing the potential of any campaign that runs through her company.