Which Types of Audience Targeting Are Most Important to Digital Branding Campaigns?

May 12, 2015

ForbesQuantcast-Most-Important-Audience-Targeting-Types-May2015Psychographics (such as interests and lifestyle) and demographics are the most important types of audience targeting for digital branding campaigns, and that holds true for most company sizes, finds a global survey [download page] of 300 executives from Forbes Insights and Quantcast. Following psychographics (75%) and demographics (71%) was purchase data (66%), with social (55%) and search (47%) data also important to roughly half of respondents.

There were a couple of interesting discrepancies when sorting by company revenue, though. Among the largest companies (those with $10 billion or more in annual revenue), demographics (75%) were the clear favorite, followed by social data (56%), which was otherwise one of the lower-ranked of the five options among other company sizes (all of which had at least $500 million in annual revenues). Additionally, executives from the largest enterprises were less likely than average to cite psychographics (54% vs. 75%) and purchase data (48% vs. 66%) as being important audience targeting types. (It should be noted that these respondents comprised a relatively small share (18%) of the total survey sample, totaling 55.)

Search data, meanwhile, was the least important audience targeting type across each of the company sizes and regions surveyed.

Overall, the majority (56%) of executives surveyed said that less than half of their digital display budgets include a specific audience target, with a plurality 46% reporting that one-quarter to one-half of their digital budgets include a target. Among the largest companies though, a majority (57%) include a specific audience target in their display budgets at least half of the time, with a plurality 40% including one half to three-quarters of the time.

The figures are broadly similar when limiting the responses to digital video, for which psychographics (71%), demographics (70%) and purchase data (66%) are also the most important audience targeting types. Some 59% of respondents said that only a minority of their digital video budgets included a specific audience target, with the plurality (47%) indicating that 25-49% of their video budgets have a target. Among the largest companies, though, 59% included a target at least half of the time, including a plurality 36% who target an audience at least three-quarters of the time.

The biggest display ad challenge for respondents? Identifying proper target personas, with 54% selecting this from a list of 4 options. The availability of target personas from an agency and/or preferred media partner was the top challenge for 29% of the overall sample, but was a greater challenge than identification of proper target personas for respondents in the Asia-Pacific region.

Compared to those top challenges, the accuracy of the targeting method (14%) and the scale of the targeted audience (3%) are relatively minor problems. Even so, data released by Nielsen last year found that 59% of ad impressions reach their intended demographic audience, down from 69% a year earlier. As expected, that figure decreased as the target audience narrowed, with just 32% of of impressions intending to reach a single gender within a 15-year age span being on-target. And in a more recent test of demographic targeting, Mediasmith found [pdf] varying degrees of accuracy by data provider and recommended considering scale along with accuracy.

The Forbes Insights survey respondents, meanwhile, were most likely to use customer surveys and sales as their measurement tools, with third-party validation services such as comScore vCE or Nielsen Digital Ad Ratings rounding out the top 3. Roughly 8 in 10 reported validating their campaigns a majority of the time, though just 51% of the companies always validate that their campaigns reach the right audience.

Finally, executives are more likely to work with publishers than with ad networks or ad exchanges to reach relevant audiences, per the report. Nevertheless, more than half (54%) reported targeting relevant content via ad exchanges and almost half (45%) target specific audiences programmatically.

About the Data: The Forbes Insights and Quantcast report was fielded among 304 executives in North America (44%), Asia-Pacific (28%) and EMEA (21%). Respondents were most commonly from digital and/or online advertising (35%) and advertising (33%) departments. All respondents came from companies with at least $500 million in revenues. Some 38% have advertising budgets greater than $10 million.

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