Crafting a Well-Defined Audience Strategy: First Step to an Exceptional Media Plan

Arkaprava Sadhu
7 min readFeb 21, 2020

Audience targeting is becoming more important every day for advertisers with the advent of newer targeting capabilities in the world of digital advertising. Defining the target audience for a campaign is the foundation to a winning media plan. A well-defined audience strategy will ensure you to find the holy grail, which is identifying the right customer at the right moment at the right place.

Audience targeting is the practice of identifying the ideal audience for the campaign and using data to create meaningful segments basis various audience attributes available as first party, second party or third party data. ‘Audience data’ or ‘audience attributes ‘indicates numerous information and details about the users who’ll be exposed to your advertisement.

By crafting a well-defined audience strategy, you make sure that you’re targeting the consumers who’re more likely to purchase or opt for your product or service. Unlike traditional marketing, marketers can target the most ideal consumers and reduce down the possibilities of wasting media spends on uninterested prospects. If you intend to understand the right approach to audience targeting and building a winning audience strategy — you’ve came to the right place.

Listed below are four essential means to source audience for your campaign which will help build an exceptional audience strategy:

1. Data Management Platform: Simplifying ways to collect, organize and analyse audience data

In today’s world, the task of understanding consumer behavior is becoming more complex as customers are spending most of their time on online channels and switching between varieties of devices. The consumer path to purchase, from awareness to research, consideration and final conversion, is no longer linear. It is prudent for marketers to understand how to interpret potential customers’ intent and build strategies around delivering relevant and personalized content to gain competitive advantage and boost sales.

Data Management Platform (DMP) is the key to reduce down the complexity of understanding consumer behavior as it simplifies the process of collecting, organizing and analyzing the audience data. Businesses are spending significantly on data management platforms to discover signals and traits of its own audience which can translate into meaningful insights. DMPs have enabled businesses to consolidate its first party, second party and third party data in a unified platform, empowering them create single view of customers and perform actions at individual level.

DMPs have enabled marketers to create meaningful audience segments and transfer them to third party channels like Google, Facebook, DSPs (demand-side-platforms). This has further empowered advertisers to build communication strategy at segment level to deliver highly personalized and relevant content.

By leveraging DMPs, businesses can also create similar audiences within the audience pool available. With AI enhancements in DMPs, businesses can leverage propensity models based on historical audience data to find audience segments which are more likely to convert.

The Forrester Wave: Data Management Platforms, Q2 2019 report highlights evaluation assessment of seven top vendors in the market.

2. Leveraging Platform Audience from Google Adwords and Facebook

After you’ve worked on your first party data, you must now look at leveraging third party data available in Google Adwords and Facebook Business Manager. Since search is an intent driven channel, it is essential to focus on the keyword strategy. A tested and optimized keywords list is the key to achieve your search campaign goal. Unlike display and video campaigns, search is not restricted by limited and profiled segments, and is generally restricted by demographic and geographic criteria only. However, it is recommended to keep the campaign under “observation” setting to monitor how ads are performing for your audience segments. Advertisers should understand what audience type performs better. Below mentioned is the detailed list of audience types for targeting in display and search campaigns:

Google’s Audience Targeting Options

For Facebook campaigns, several audience sourcing options are available. With core audiences on Facebook, one can reach people based on a holistic picture of their lifestyle, passion, habits, interest on specific topics or product category along with demographic and geographic criteria like age, location, gender etc. Facebook also lets you touch base with your customers or prospects which are available as offline data. Custom Audience targeting enables advertisers to upload offline data and target specific user base with tailored communication. With lookalike audience, Facebook allows advertisers to reach similar audiences of the most high value customer segment.

3. Go Super Contextual with Programmatic Media Buying

With display and video ads, targeting opportunities are numerous to reach out to the ideal audience for your business. Advertisers can create platform level audience segments (based on interest, intent, demographic and geographic data) as well as push first party data to ad platforms (Demand Side Platforms) to target specific audiences in the ad network. DSPs enabled with programmatic technology can identify audience which resonates with each individual and target him or her on sites they are most likely to engage with and at the time they are most likely to engage.

Additional to audience buying, advertisers can also opt for inventory buying. Even though we see most businesses are moving towards ‘audience buying’, however for many brands, awareness campaigns have gained successful results by delivering ads to broader audience on defined ad inventories. The best part about ad platforms (DSPs) is that the system allows advertisers to control the number of ad impressions at user level. For an advertiser running campaigns both on audience and inventory buying, is able to control ad frequency at user level, thus eliminating the chances of targeting overlapped audiences with repeated content.

Google’s Display & Video 360 (DV360) integrates search data into audience profiles to add the intent layer in the segments. Custom Intent allows advertisers to reach out to users who’ve searched for specific keywords on Google search. Furthermore, DSPs also consider URLs to find interest categories based on the content of the website. This helps advertisers to create audiences that are more tailored to their brands.

Creating Brilliant Retargeting Audiences

Retargeting audiences always yield to higher engagement rate, brand awareness, click through rates and conversions at lower CPC than the rest of the campaigns. Thanks to all advertising platforms which has opened up series of opportunities to create intelligent remarketing segments to empower businesses to maximize campaign success.

Facebook now allows advertisers to retarget engagers from past campaigns. Even with video ads, advertisers can create custom audience off of users who watched at least half of your video(for eg). This gives an opportunity for businesses to sequence ad communications to various audience segments and showcase its brand story in a meaningful way.

Ecommerce brands extensively use Dynamic Product Ads (DPAs) to retarget audiences with products by creating an ad template that automatically uses images and details from data feed. DPAs have been able to deliver highly personalized and tailored customer experience as these ads are triggered by specific actions and avoids showcasing the repeated products to the same customer.

Retargeting audiences can be created for customers who’re dropping off at each stage of purchase funnel. A prospect who has dropped off from the first page can be treated with a particular communication, while for those who’ve visited the last page of the journey and didn’t purchase the product, can be targeted with a discount or incentive. It is imperative for advertisers to ensure implementation of necessary pixels on each page of the journey to allow the ad platforms learn through audience behavioural signals from the buying journey.

Retargeting strategies around tapping customer segments which falls within a specific time window, works phenomenally well for several businesses. Let’s say you’re working on the ad campaign targeting days 5–8. You can include users who have visited your site in the past 8 days, but exclude users who have visited your site in the past 4 days.

Here’s a five steps approach to build an exceptional audience strategy:

1. Identify and create the most meaningful audience segments on your data management platform basis the relevant traits and signals available

2. Prioritize your first party data and leverage the same on third party platforms to create similar audience segments. Build communication strategy for individual audience segments to deliver contextual and personalized content

3. Identify the ideal audience segments from platform data available in Google Ads and Facebook Business Manager. Consider affinity audiences, in-market audiences, custom intent and custom affinity audiences for your campaigns

4. Leverage Programmatic Display and Video Ads to create advanced level audience segments. Consider audience buying and inventory buying both for ad campaigns and understand what works better. Search data integrated with audience targeting adds customer intent to the segment which further increases it’s likelihood to perform better

5. Create intelligent retargeting segments to get the best out of remarketing ad campaigns. Consider feeding journey data to ad platforms to retarget the dropped off customers with highly tailored content that can result to increased conversions

Building a well-defined audience strategy basis the various audience sources mentioned above will yield improved results and enable achieve business goals. With the advent of newer technologies enabling intelligent decision making to maximize conversions and operational automation to reduce costs, it is imperative for advertisers to keep looking forward for better targeting opportunities and changing their audience strategies accordingly.



Arkaprava Sadhu

Digital Marketing Strategist @Vodafone India. Specialize in Search Engine Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Programmatic Media & Marketing Automation