One of the most fundamental rules of effective advertising is pairing the right message with the right person. With an abundance of new data, this has never been more important.

illustration by Ron Lent, Creative Director

written by Glenn Landauer, Head of Client Strategy

Too often we see an ad and wonder, “Why on earth did I get this?”

Whether you’re a vegan getting ads for A1 Steak Sauce or an urban city dweller seeing sponsored posts from Jeep Wrangler, there’s one thing both marketers and consumers can agree on: it’s wasteful. For the marketer it’s wasted dollars, and for the consumer it’s wasted attention. This leaves no one happy. This is why we’ll see more brands turning to precision marketing

Let’s take a step back. According to the White House¹, 98% of Americans today are connected to high-speed wireless internet. That’s a lot of people surfing the web, speaking in emoji and snapping selfies on their phone. As a result, brands are able to reach an enormous number of people with digital media (far more than TV), they can do it faster and cheaper than ever before, and they can even measure ROI via direct store sales — the holy grail of digital marketing. Furthermore, with the expansion of advanced interest and behavioral targeting on platforms like Facebook, reaching the right people has never been easier.

Not so fast. Sure it might be easier, but we’re still not getting it right most of the time. Think about it: how often do you get an ad unrelated to your interests? Something you’re not in the market for, or even considering? This is the fallacy of modern media: we have the opportunity to reach an unprecedented number of people (scale), but we mistakenly continue to address them as one group (uniformity). We must recognize that while the idea of “one size fits all” may work in print or broadcast, it is antithetical to the digital experience. Especially in social media and on mobile devices. These are the most personal and intimate environments, where the context of your content matters most. This is where we, as marketers, must work harder to be relevant.

Let’s say, for example, you’re a weight-loss brand. This is a category comprised of nearly 70% of Americans with a wide range of reasons to diet. Depending on where your customer is in their journey (e.g., just starting out vs. can’t keep the weight off), their motivation will vary drastically. For one consumer, it might be about self-image or looking their best and tuning up before the summer season. For another, it might be more dire, like health-threatening obesity

Now imagine we used a photo of a swimsuit model in this ad, highlighting a slender waist. How would the creative perform with each of our audiences? With the first group it might resonate — tapping into their desire for self-improvement and their aspiration to be beautiful. But for the latter there is a good chance it will come across as unattainable, crass or simply out of touch. Knowing the difference is crucial to the success of our message.

This is the sort of precision that is becoming more and more important in marketing. Let’s stop treating everyone the same and recognize where there are meaningful differences. We can do this by being smarter about how we utilize the data that’s available, and by taking the time to develop messaging that speaks to the individual experiences of our consumers.


We are moving into an era of advertising that is defined by data and how we utilize it to our advantage. This includes: (1) how we segment our consumers into unique need- or interestbased groups; (2) how we target them through distinct media strategies; and (3) how well we customize creative to resonate on a personal level. Marketers that utilize data in this capacity will have a greater chance of being relevant and achieving their goals.