“The Sell Sider” is a column written for the sell side of the digital media community.
Today’s column is written by Alessandro De Zanche, an audience and data strategy consultant.
At an event I attended a few weeks ago, there was a broadcaster with a strong digital presence and a CPG brand on stage discussing the value of audience data for their advertising partnership.
The approach was quite low key, but I got the impression that both went to great lengths to avoid saying what they were really thinking.
In my experience, limiting the use of a publisher’s audience data for targeting CPG campaigns – or even not using it at all – is the right thing to do and nothing to be ashamed of.
While a luxury watch or a handbag normally appeals to specific demographics, chocolate cookies or bars of soap are much more generic and aimed at a broader audience.
As a result, many CPG products are so mainstream that applying granular targeting to CPG campaigns would be too limiting and risky because it would exclude a big chunk of potential customers.
The notion that audience data is of little use in a partnership between CPGs and digital media brands is wrong.
So how can CPG companies take advantage of a media company’s rich audience data?
A publisher’s successful audience data strategy should mix science, data and an understanding of the underlying human element. It should result in a holistic view of the consumer, as opposed to a bunch of data points quickly taped together or thrown individually at programmatic platforms, without much comprehension of the bigger picture.
A holistic audience and data strategy revolving around human beings and not just data points and supported by the right structure and skills can turn a publisher’s audience data into a major strength for CPG brands. But that wouldn’t be enough if it wasn’t strategically coordinated across the whole lifecycle of the advertiser-media brand partnership.
During my experience working for media brands, we relied heavily on audience data to support CPG clients in digital advertising campaigns, although often at a different stage than targeting.
A campaign would run most of the time untargeted, except for some attributes required by law or common sense, such as campaigns targeted only at those over 18 years old.
The audience data, translated into user attributes and usually activated for targeting, would instead be leveraged after the campaign finished or while still live, by layering it on top of the ad logs and providing granular insights on the characteristics of the users who saw and engaged with the ads.
Ad logs provide information at the impression level and can be matched to deeper metrics of user engagement within the creative itself, depending on the technology adopted. By linking an individual user’s attributes to the log events generated by the same user, it is possible to build a picture of what the engaged audience looks like and how different demographics interacted with the campaign.
These are insights that can also help in building client-specific segments that can be tested later, including for targeting, in other campaigns.
This approach should not be confused with the “campaign optimizer” feature of many ad tech platforms, which exclusively looks at the performance of an ad at flight level, during the campaign and in real time. That process is focused on performance and direct response and often optimized to clicks, but it does not take into consideration any user characteristics, which can then be leveraged for insights.
The right approach
Using a publisher’s audience data when a campaign has ended is a great tool to help CPGs discover insights about their core audiences. But for this to happen, media companies need to approach audience and data holistically. And the CPG company would also have to work closely with the media brand.
But as the level of audience knowledge grows and is shared between the CPG and the media brands, the relationship between them also deepens.
Success depends on the clarity and consistency of objectives, the competence of the people involved and the use of the right technology to support them. With Google removing the user ID from the ad logs, the choice of the right partners to support a defined strategy is paramount.
In the past when I wrote about publishers’ alliances and their potential for success, I underlined the need for a sophisticated, common and consistent approach to data collection and processing, audience profiling and segmentation across all the media brands that are part of the alliance. This use case would perfectly fit and strengthen the power of data in a high-quality context.