Home Online Advertising TransUnion And Ally Bank Pilot The Notion Of A Movable Middle Audience

TransUnion And Ally Bank Pilot The Notion Of A Movable Middle Audience

Comic: Stop Setting Money On Fire

Some ad campaigns target customers most likely to convert. Another common tactic is to conquest a competitor’s known customers.

But bringing in the consumers most likely to convert often means a brand is paying to get a sale that was already coming their way. And targeting competitors’ customers can waste budgets on people who simply aren’t interested.

The answer, according to TransUnion, is to go for what the company calls the “movable middles,” or category buyers who are not loyal to a particular brand.

A useful Ally

TransUnion trialed reaching this movable middle audience with Ally Bank over the past year.

The company began surveying broadly last year to identify people who were in the market for banking services, but didn’t know Ally, to determine if customers could develop positive feelings over time for the brand.

The typical demographic information – targeting suburban soccer moms, say, or men over 55 – can often make intuitive sense if it’s the right customer for the product. And targeting based on likelihood to convert is a commonsensical choice, said Kevin Howard, Ally’s executive director of digital strategy and growth marketing.

But if you dig into the incremental results, targeting likely converters may not pay off for the business. By focusing on those most likely to convert in a short window and using a cost per acquisition (CPA) metric, a campaign optimizes to short-term purchases that often were already decided.

Over the course of the past year, Ally and TransUnion have continued to survey people to gauge whether their targeting led to improved brand sentiment.

“What we saw is actually about two to three times more stickiness and adoption of other product features for those people that were in that ‘movable middle’ segment, versus the generic ways that we would target, whether it’s a broad demo or competitive conquesting,” Howard said.

The brand’s media mix also shifted, he added. The company had previously treated streaming media in particular as a “gap-filler” channel, where you only target the people who can no longer be reached by linear TV.


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But streaming and social media have become larger pieces of the marketing picture for Ally, since it began homing in on movable middle targets.

Although the same shift in media mix wouldn’t necessarily be the case for a different brand targeting its movable middle audience.

Middle to the masses

But the main challenge of targeting movable middles is the platforms.

Google and Meta, with their machine-learning-controlled products Performance Max and Advantage+, respectively, are built to target the CPA. The idea is to optimize for those most likely to convert within a given attribution window.

Ally dealt with this by applying the strategy to its open DSP campaigns, where it has control over the audiences and formats it buys.

But the idea must extend to walled garden platforms and algorithmic ad buying products if it’s going to work, said Michael Schoen, EVP and GM of TransUnion’s Marketing Solutions business.

“Those walled gardens are where your consumers are congregating,” he said. “You kind of have to play there.”

Rather than apply the strategy only to open DSP campaigns, Schoen said advertisers can steer products like PMax and Advantage+ toward audience segments that over-index with its movable middle targets and to media where those types of customers might be found.

There is typically a shift in media mix when a brand changes its targeting approach, Schoen said. “There’s no single rule of thumb,” he said. “It will shift based on where that particular brand’s target tends to congregate.”

And while Ally used primarily survey data to determine who it categorized as a movable middle consumer, that’s indicative of where Ally collects data, Schoen said.

“We see a lot of diversity in terms of the amount of information brands have access to,” he said. And it’s important to leverage multiple data sets, including the information coming from each walled garden.

All the walled gardens will attribute themselves well on the CPA metric. But it’s up to the brand (and TransUnion) to collect all these streams of data to determine which are actually generating incremental business gains.

“The ‘easy button’ in campaign targeting and performance optimization is very appealing,” Schoen said, referring to a brand’s option to let a walled garden algo determine who the brand ought to target and in what ad format.

But, he added, “when we’re able to engage in conversations with brands, we’re able to understand why that easy button is not effective.”

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