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Ad Targeting Options


Lately we’ve noticed that more and more clients are getting interested in testing the different ways to target online ads – which is rightly so, given the big wide world of online media and all the targeting capabilities that websites and ad networks offer. It makes perfect sense that as marketers, we try to reach the most relevant (and most likely to engage) consumers. But how exactly do we focus our efforts (aka what exactly are the ad targeting options)? I thought I’ll give a short summary of the basic ad targeting opportunities that we use to ensure successful online media campaigns:

  • Demographic – one of the most popular targeting options available, demographic targeting looks at age, gender, and household income or economic level
  • Geographic – based on the user’s IP address, advertisers can target users by geographic areas, whether by country, state, city, even zip code
  • Behavioral – ad networks track the behavior of users who visit their network of sites, and basically catalogs a user’s behavior based on the content of the sites visited. The next time that user comes back to one of the partner sites from the network, that user may be served a behaviorally targeted ad
  • Contextual – may be keyword based (ads are shown on sites where relevant keywords show up) or category based (ads are shown on pages which reflect the advertiser’s chosen categories)
  • Retargeting – ad networks let advertisers reach out to users who have already visited their own website, by placing cookies on their own website (ex. the homepage of Company X). The next time a (cookied) user visits a partner site from the network, they are shown an ad from Company X

Individual sites also offer their own way of targeting users, especially the social media sites who enjoy a wealth of user information (based on the profiles and sign ups). For instance, MySpace offers hypertargeting (targeting by interest categories like music, movies, finance, gaming, electronics, sports, travel, auto, fashion, health/fitness), Facebook offers keyword targeting based on profile parameters (interests, activities, music, TV shows, education, high school, college, workplace, relationship status, books, etc) – all in addition to basic demographic and geographic targeting.

So next time you plan an online campaign, remember that you don’t have to waste media money on mass reach; there are ways to target your ads to the most appropriate audiences and find the most efficient ways to deliver your ads.



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