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Audience & Targeting


Digital ads aren't like magazine or traditional TV ads in that there is a plethora of targeting options – from targeting devices to reaching specific people. In this section, you’ll learn about different types of targeting, technology used for targeting, and how to target more effectively.

Types of Targeting

There are two main types of targeting inventory targeting, which serves ads on sites that offer a specific type of content or are visited frequently by individuals within a particular demographic, and user targeting – which serves ads to individuals who have exhibited a particular behavior or interest.


Demographic: Marketing segmentation strategy where the audience (potential customers) is divided into externally measurable characteristics.

Types of User Targeting Digital Marketing Guide Age Gender Income Residence Education Marital Status Race Household

Behavioral:  A more focused form of market segmentation, which groups consumers based on specific consumption patterns they display.

•    Past purchasing history
•    Browsing history

Dayparting: Targeting users that are active at a particular time of day or day of week.

Designated Market Area: A segment Nielsen uses to standardize geographic areas for the purposes of targeting and measurement.

Retargeting: Targeting past visitors of your site.

Product-related: Segmenting the audience based on usage of a product (such as heavy vs. light).

Data: The use of 1st and 3rd party data to target and segment audiences has been revolutionary for advertisers over the past few years. These resources have helped advertisers maximize their ROI on spend through accurate targeting.

•    1st party data is collected from your own audience and customers and is looked at as the most valuable due to its quality and value (accessible for free!). 1st party data is safe and should be utilized by all advertisers to help them monetize, learn from, and use this asset to scale valuable audiences and deepen engagement
•    3rd party data is generated on other platforms and often aggregated from other websites. There are many companies who sell 3rd party data, and there are several factors buyers of this data should be wary of when purchasing such as modeling vs registration based data and inferred vs declared demographic data

Targeting Technologies


Tracking User Activity

Cookies: A Cookie is a text file sent from a website and stored in a user's web browser while the user is browsing that website.

Web beacons: Also known as a "tracking pixel", a Web Beacon is a transparent graphic image (usually 1 pixel x 1 pixel) that is placed on a site or in an email, and used in combination with cookies to transfer or collect information through a graphic image request.

Persistent IDs: Refers to "people-based" marketing as opposed to device-based. Persistent ID Targeting uses ID logins for sites or mobile apps such as Facebook; IDs are assigned to a user, and stay with the user throughout browsing and across devices. 

Best practices for targeting

Don’t over-specify.  Avoid making your strategy so specific that you end up with a reduced pool of potential customers. Piling a variety of schemes on top of each other is called hypertargeting, and is likely to hinder your campaign's performance by reducing your audience.

Target appropriately across media. Don't address your audience purely from one front; you may be reaching a different audience with your mobile and social strategy, and consumers interacting with your message through these channels may behave differently than they would through other channels.

Think strategically before tactically. You know your clients and their objectives. The objectives for targeting on a local scale are very different than targeting at a global scale, just as the objectives for a CPG advertiser with a short conversion cycle versus a longer term cycle.

Use past campaign analysis to revise your targeting strategy. It may sound obvious, but careful tracking of pacing and performance across past campaigns will tell you how well your message resonates with your target audience. If your message is underperforming, it may be the creative or it may be that the audience you have set doesn't mesh with a particular medium, or perhaps you've defined your target audience too narrowly.

Frequency cap. Bombarding your audience over and over tends to lead to decreased engagement with an ad, and at worst, overexposure can lead to a negative association with your brand. Industry best practices place the frequency cap at 3.

A/B test. This is best practice for all types of advertising, and will help you better measure your campaign's success and plan for future retargeting campaigns.

Burn pixel. Just as consumers don't want to see the same retargeted ad 50 times, they don't want to continue seeing ads after they have converted, such as making a purchase. An easy solution is to use a burn pixel, which untags viewers as recipients of your ad once they have made a purchase.


Retargeting is a cookie-based technology that uses simple a JavaScript code to anonymously "follow" your audience all over the web.

Here’s how it works: you place a small, unobtrusive piece of code on your website (this code is sometimes referred to as a pixel). Your visitors will not see the code, and it will not affect your site’s performance. Every time a new visitor comes to your site, the code drops an anonymous browser cookie. Later, when these visitors browse the web, the cookie will let your retargeting provider know when to serve ads, ensuring that your ads are served to people who have previously visited your site.

From start to finish, what are the considerations involved in planning and creating media, and what are the best practices?

Related Links


Digital advertising terms don't have to be overwhelming. Check out our digital glossary to quickly look-up important definitions.

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