The Value of Targeted Advertising

17/07/2015 10:22 BST | Updated 16/07/2016 10:59 BST

During the recent General Election the Conservative Party ran a series of focused paid-for video adverts on YouTube to target voters in marginal constituencies around the country. This was a 'first' in UK politics as no political party to my knowledge has used the platform in this way before. Yes, political parties have long been posting videos to YouTube, but until now no one has put serious media money behind them in order to make sure target voters view the content.

I believe this gave the Conservatives a massive campaigning advantage over their rivals and allowed them to reach potential voters who do not read newspapers or watch TV. Political advertising is not allowed on TV outside of sanctioned Party Political Broadcast slots, however as YouTube can now reach mass audiences that law seems increasingly outdated. And the fact that YouTube can target voters much more accurately than traditional TV channels means that, in some ways, it's an even more potent platform.

This got me thinking about the value of targeted advertising and how you can amplify and maximise your impact through data-driven programmatic ad packages in order to reach the right audience with the right content. NetMediaEurope is a B2B online publisher with a strong focus on technical content and we put a great deal of emphasis on this type of targeted or amplified advertising. For example one of our publications, TechWeekEurope, is read by IT decision makers who are reading specific topics around cloud and mobile. We serve up ads that we know will appeal to this audience. Through our data driven programmes, we can then select the attributes driving engagement, whether that is with the audience segment (i.e. IT decision makers) or category of page visited and then our 'amplify engine' displays the clients' ads on other qualified websites visited by TechWeekEurope's audience.

Overall, the key to targeted advertising is that you need to be consistent with your audience, you need to make your content sticky, and you need to make it clear to your targeted audience what they can expect when they land on your website. What is really important is that we think about what they want and we target, segment, amplify and measure in order to achieve this.

A truly targeted advert can make a reader feel highly valued which is almost impossible to achieve through traditional print or billboard adverts. If publishers use data in a smart way, like I've outlined above, they can ensure that the information they share is always relevant to the recipient and as a result build a relationship with the reader based on trust, loyalty and above all offering products or services that they know the reader will like. On the other hand, if this type of targeting is executed poorly, it can have the opposite effect.

With poor targeting readers become inundated with offers that are completely irrelevant, leaving them irritated, frustrated and in some cases disenchanted with the publisher. Imagine a person making a purchase from the computer of a friend or family member. The owner of the computer might have very different interests than the person who made the purchase, yet following that one purchase they are then flooded with targeted advertising that was never meant for them.

So, what can be done to increase the value of targeted advertising? Thinking about the following points might be a good place to start:

• Targeted advertising requires a human touch. Technology is no substitute. For example, you need someone to monitor and analyse and manually remove users from the database if they are not responding well to targeted adverts.

• Concentrate on analysing recent purchases made by a reader rather than examining historical data that could be well out of date.

• Look at how often a reader purchases a certain type of product. Do they regularly buy a particular product or was it a present for somebody? If it was a present it's unlikely that the reader will want to hear about offers on other products that they don't plan to buy all the time.

• Think about how you can amplify the message by selecting the attributes driving engagement with the reader and through data driven programmes find and displays ads from other qualified websites that match - most importantly they must be qualified.

• Ask for feedback. Whether a reader rates a product or hates it, listen to them. The last thing a reader wants is to have to deal with constant reminders of a product they really disliked and this may even encourage public criticism.

To be a successful publisher you have to know enough about your readers in order to create news for them. You can sub-segment and target with adverts but remember readers only like adverts as long as they are of interest. Ultimately if advertising is not targeted it has a negative perception. Readers want to be made aware of the news and content you carry as a publication, not distracted by irrelevant adverts. Moving forward one the biggest challenge for all publishers will be how to leverage advertising and make it profitable but retain the loyalty and commitment of readers. The more granular you are in your adverts, the more personalised and relevant, the more impact you will have.