How To Solve Common Audience-Based Targeting Pain Points in Programmatic Display

What role does programmatic display advertising play in your overall digital marketing strategy? It’s likely that your business is one of the brands that spent an estimated $36.4 billion last year on programmatic advertising alone, and with the rapidly evolving market due to COVID-19,  programmatic advertising continues to be an important advertising channel no matter what product or service you sell. 

Today’s brands have more access than ever before to data that they use to draw conclusions about customer interests and behavior online. This allows them to create highly relevant and personalized programmatic ads that speak to their target audience at the right time, in the right way, and in the right place.

Customizing your audience targeting strategy in this way helps ensure that you make the most of your limited media budget and allows you to best segment users into different categories based on their shared characteristics and/or interests. As a result, you can run highly personalized programmatic ads and spend your programmatic media budgets efficiently only on users with the highest likelihood to convert. 

So how can you ensure that you correctly implement audience-based targeting in your programmatic media campaigns and create highly relevant programmatic ads that drive conversions? Read on as we cover some of the most common audience targeting strategy pain points and how you can solve them to run more efficient programmatic media campaigns. 

What is audience targeting and why is a strong audience targeting strategy important in programmatic media campaigns? 

Before we cover the most common audience targeting strategy pain points and solutions, let’s walk through the basic definition of audience targeting and why your business should prioritize it as part of your programmatic media campaigns.  

Audience targeting is the process of aggregating various data points (including first, second, and third-party data) and using these insights to inform audience segmentation in your DSP (demand-side platform). Audience segmentation then helps you include or exclude certain audiences from seeing certain ads. 

By doing this, you can make sure that your target audience only sees ads that are most relevant to them, which cuts down on wasted spend showing the wrong ads to the wrong people, and ensures better ROAS from your programmatic display campaigns. 

Some of the most common DSPs include Google Display Network and Display and Video 360, as well as The Trade Desk and Amazon DSP.  However, no matter which DSP you work with, it’s important to follow some general best practices for programmatic display campaigns and to also understand how you can pinpoint and solve common pain points that can come up in your audience targeting strategy.

Pain Point #1  Lack of the right analytics tools and resources to inform your audience targeting strategy in programmatic media campaigns

The right analytics tool can act as a single source of truth for your audience targeting strategy, and it is a vital source of insights you need to segment your users and target the right audiences in your display advertising campaigns. 

If your data is unorganized or comes from disparate sources you won’t be able to build a unified picture of your customer. Without this unified picture of your customer, you aren’t able to know who your target audience is, and you won’t be able to create the right messaging and programmatic display ads that speak to their unique interests. 

To make sure your analytics solution acts as a single source of truth that best informs your audience targeting strategy, you can invest in a single stack solution such as Google Analytics 360. Google Analytics 360 integrates with other commonly used digital marketing tools such as Google’s enterprise DSP (Display and Video 360) and Search Ads 360. 

A single stack solution allows you to spend less time stitching together different data sources and instead use that time to build better ads that are more custom to users’ unique interests. 

Pain Point #2: Targeting too broad or too narrow of an audience 

It’s important to consider the unique goals of your programmatic media campaign when deciding how broad or narrow your audience based targeting should be. For example, is the goal of your campaign to increase brand awareness? In that case, you’ll want to make sure to use broader audience-based targeting to increase the overall reach of your programmatic ads. 

However, if the main goal of your programmatic media campaign is to drive better performance such as increased ROI, ROAS, or conversions, you need to make sure that your audience targeting strategy has a lower reach that targets a more granular audience. For example, you might want to target a smaller segment of users within your target audience such as a specific age group with users that are a certain age or gender or have specific interests. 

If your reach is too broad in this type of campaign, you risk wasting media budget advertising to users that don’t have a high likelihood to convert. Narrowing your audience targeting strategy ensures that you spend media dollars only on audiences that are most likely to convert. Spending media dollars only on audiences that are most likely to convert increases ROAS and drives the best ROI from your programmatic media since you avoid wasting budget on audiences that are not relevant to your brand.

By comparison, targeting too narrow of an audience can also make programmatic media less effective. For example, if you are selling a niche product and you over segment your audience, you will not be able to drive results at scale. Marketing at scale helps drive better overall efficiency in your digital marketing campaigns and helps achieve business growth with the same inputs.

Pain Point #3:  Serving too many ads to your target audience

Showing too many ads or too many of the same ad to users that you already know are interested in your products from previous tests can not only annoy them but also damage brand perception. Customers are less likely to purchase from your brand when they feel annoyed by your ads. 

To prevent this, you can use frequency capping to ensure that you don’t show the same ad to the same users unintentionally too often. You can also segment audiences and/or use audience exclusion. Audience exclusion is the activation of audience segmentation and is one tactic to enable frequency capping based on historic customer engagement. This helps make sure that certain users further along in the conversion process don’t see any ads intended for users at the top of the funnel. Audience exclusion is the activation of audience segmentation and is one tactic to enable frequency capping based on historic customer engagement. 

This not only prevents users from feeling annoyed with your ads but also prevents wasting any media budget on showing upper funnel ads to customers who have already moved through to lower stages of your conversion funnel. 

Frequency capping and segmenting in this way can also prevent wasted time or resources that could be better spent connecting with these users outside of programmatic advertising. For example, you can instead exclude some audience members from awareness programmatic campaigns and instead include them in a nurture campaign. This can not only help you minimize wasted budget but also builds trust with users by demonstrating that you know they are already interested in your product. When users continue to receive highly relevant and personalized marketing messages from your brand outside of your programmatic ads, they are more likely to continue through the funnel to conversion. 

Pain Point #4 Forgetting to personalize communications and additional marketing after the sale based on your specific product or service and sales cycle

Focusing only on custom messaging in the touchpoints prior to users converting is another common mistake brands make in their audience targeting strategy. Instead, brands can ensure that they best use the time, resources, and budget they have already spent on marketing to a specific user via programmatic advertising by continuing to send the user custom messaging even after the sale. 

Custom messaging after the sale also delivers a more consistent user experience. When users don’t have a consistent experience with your brand they are less likely to become repeat customers. Repeat customers have the best ROI since they convert in less time and often with less advertising, compared with more time, money, and resources needed to bring in a new user who’s converting/purchasing from your brand for the first time. 

You can continue to deliver custom messaging after the sale by gathering, analyzing, and acting on data from all of your touchpoints in the customer journey as a user moves through to conversion. This allows you to understand when and how users interact with each of your touchpoints so that once they purchase from your brand, you can continue to send them custom messaging post-purchase, such as how-to guides on how to use your product or service, or sales or coupons on products/services they have previously purchased from your brand. 

It is also important that messaging in your post-sale marketing aligns with your sales cycle. For example, if your product has a relatively long sales cycle, excluding users from any programmatic campaigns and instead including them in a nurture campaign can help prevent wasted budget or encourage an upsell instead of a repeat purchase. 

This can also be more cost-efficient for brands in industries with long gaps of time between a user’s first purchase with the brand and their next purchase from that brand, (ie. automobile industry). 

Pain Point #5  Lacking data freshness from your third party data providers

While there are a variety of enterprise-level analytics solutions (Google Analytics 360, Adobe Analytics, IBM Analytics etc.)  that offer real-time insights into customer behavior, some brands may not have the budget for them and instead need to rely on third-party data providers for information about their target audience. While third-party data gives you access to certain audiences you wouldn’t normally access, to make the most of it you need to ensure that it is fresh and accurate. Without fresh data, you aren’t able to see how and when your customers move through the conversion process and you risk wasting media budget displaying irrelevant ads to users who may have moved further through the conversion funnel. 

This is where first-party data becomes important. First-party data ensures data freshness and helps you better understand where customers are in the purchase cycle in real-time. First-party data also helps you ensure that your customers are still categorized in the correct segments at any given time.  This is especially important because a customer can actually fall into different categories during different parts of the conversion process, so you need to be able to adjust your audience targeting strategy accordingly. 

For example, if users have experienced certain life changes (getting married, having children, buying a house, etc) it could not only impact how and when they purchase from your brand, but more importantly your messaging to them as you continue to reach them through display advertising. 

Finally, real-time updates on where customers are in the conversion process can ensure help you spend media budget more efficiently since you can save budget by only advertising to relevant audiences. First-party data also tends to be higher quality compared to older data because it is more relevant and therefore more actionable as part of your overall audience targeting strategy. 

Bottom Line

Top brands focus on a strong audience targeting strategy to help make the most of their programmatic media campaigns. Strong audience-based targeting helps brands spend media budget efficiently allowing them to correctly segment users so that highly relevant ads reach them at the right time, in the right way, and at the right place. 

By understanding and solving some of the common pain points in audience targeting strategy, you can better understand how to drive conversions with your programmatic media in the most cost-effective way that encourages repeat customers, and brand loyalty now and long term. 


Ready to take your ads to the next level?  
DELVE is your strategic partner for site-side analytics, campaign management, and advanced marketing science. As experts in the Google Marketing Platform and Google Cloud Platform, DELVE drives client growth through a data-driven mindset that converts digital inefficiency into hard ROI.
SEE EXAMPLES of our experience and reviews from our clients.
Contact us to learn more about how we help our clients get advertising right.
DELVE Experts
delve.experts@delvepartners.com


How To Solve Common Audience-Based Targeting Pain Points in Programmatic Display

What role does programmatic display advertising play in your overall digital marketing strategy? It’s likely…

How To Solve Common Audience-Based Targeting Pain Points in Programmatic Display

What role does programmatic display advertising play in your overall digital marketing strategy? It’s likely that your business is one of the brands that spent an estimated $36.4 billion last year on programmatic advertising alone, and with the rapidly evolving market due to COVID-19,  programmatic advertising continues to be an important advertising channel no matter what product or service you sell. 

Today’s brands have more access than ever before to data that they use to draw conclusions about customer interests and behavior online. This allows them to create highly relevant and personalized programmatic ads that speak to their target audience at the right time, in the right way, and in the right place.

Customizing your audience targeting strategy in this way helps ensure that you make the most of your limited media budget and allows you to best segment users into different categories based on their shared characteristics and/or interests. As a result, you can run highly personalized programmatic ads and spend your programmatic media budgets efficiently only on users with the highest likelihood to convert. 

So how can you ensure that you correctly implement audience-based targeting in your programmatic media campaigns and create highly relevant programmatic ads that drive conversions? Read on as we cover some of the most common audience targeting strategy pain points and how you can solve them to run more efficient programmatic media campaigns. 

What is audience targeting and why is a strong audience targeting strategy important in programmatic media campaigns? 

Before we cover the most common audience targeting strategy pain points and solutions, let’s walk through the basic definition of audience targeting and why your business should prioritize it as part of your programmatic media campaigns.  

Audience targeting is the process of aggregating various data points (including first, second, and third-party data) and using these insights to inform audience segmentation in your DSP (demand-side platform). Audience segmentation then helps you include or exclude certain audiences from seeing certain ads. 

By doing this, you can make sure that your target audience only sees ads that are most relevant to them, which cuts down on wasted spend showing the wrong ads to the wrong people, and ensures better ROAS from your programmatic display campaigns. 

Some of the most common DSPs include Google Display Network and Display and Video 360, as well as The Trade Desk and Amazon DSP.  However, no matter which DSP you work with, it’s important to follow some general best practices for programmatic display campaigns and to also understand how you can pinpoint and solve common pain points that can come up in your audience targeting strategy.

Pain Point #1  Lack of the right analytics tools and resources to inform your audience targeting strategy in programmatic media campaigns

The right analytics tool can act as a single source of truth for your audience targeting strategy, and it is a vital source of insights you need to segment your users and target the right audiences in your display advertising campaigns. 

If your data is unorganized or comes from disparate sources you won’t be able to build a unified picture of your customer. Without this unified picture of your customer, you aren’t able to know who your target audience is, and you won’t be able to create the right messaging and programmatic display ads that speak to their unique interests. 

To make sure your analytics solution acts as a single source of truth that best informs your audience targeting strategy, you can invest in a single stack solution such as Google Analytics 360. Google Analytics 360 integrates with other commonly used digital marketing tools such as Google’s enterprise DSP (Display and Video 360) and Search Ads 360. 

A single stack solution allows you to spend less time stitching together different data sources and instead use that time to build better ads that are more custom to users’ unique interests. 

Pain Point #2: Targeting too broad or too narrow of an audience 

It’s important to consider the unique goals of your programmatic media campaign when deciding how broad or narrow your audience based targeting should be. For example, is the goal of your campaign to increase brand awareness? In that case, you’ll want to make sure to use broader audience-based targeting to increase the overall reach of your programmatic ads. 

However, if the main goal of your programmatic media campaign is to drive better performance such as increased ROI, ROAS, or conversions, you need to make sure that your audience targeting strategy has a lower reach that targets a more granular audience. For example, you might want to target a smaller segment of users within your target audience such as a specific age group with users that are a certain age or gender or have specific interests. 

If your reach is too broad in this type of campaign, you risk wasting media budget advertising to users that don’t have a high likelihood to convert. Narrowing your audience targeting strategy ensures that you spend media dollars only on audiences that are most likely to convert. Spending media dollars only on audiences that are most likely to convert increases ROAS and drives the best ROI from your programmatic media since you avoid wasting budget on audiences that are not relevant to your brand.

By comparison, targeting too narrow of an audience can also make programmatic media less effective. For example, if you are selling a niche product and you over segment your audience, you will not be able to drive results at scale. Marketing at scale helps drive better overall efficiency in your digital marketing campaigns and helps achieve business growth with the same inputs.

Pain Point #3:  Serving too many ads to your target audience

Showing too many ads or too many of the same ad to users that you already know are interested in your products from previous tests can not only annoy them but also damage brand perception. Customers are less likely to purchase from your brand when they feel annoyed by your ads. 

To prevent this, you can use frequency capping to ensure that you don’t show the same ad to the same users unintentionally too often. You can also segment audiences and/or use audience exclusion. Audience exclusion is the activation of audience segmentation and is one tactic to enable frequency capping based on historic customer engagement. This helps make sure that certain users further along in the conversion process don’t see any ads intended for users at the top of the funnel. Audience exclusion is the activation of audience segmentation and is one tactic to enable frequency capping based on historic customer engagement. 

This not only prevents users from feeling annoyed with your ads but also prevents wasting any media budget on showing upper funnel ads to customers who have already moved through to lower stages of your conversion funnel. 

Frequency capping and segmenting in this way can also prevent wasted time or resources that could be better spent connecting with these users outside of programmatic advertising. For example, you can instead exclude some audience members from awareness programmatic campaigns and instead include them in a nurture campaign. This can not only help you minimize wasted budget but also builds trust with users by demonstrating that you know they are already interested in your product. When users continue to receive highly relevant and personalized marketing messages from your brand outside of your programmatic ads, they are more likely to continue through the funnel to conversion. 

Pain Point #4 Forgetting to personalize communications and additional marketing after the sale based on your specific product or service and sales cycle

Focusing only on custom messaging in the touchpoints prior to users converting is another common mistake brands make in their audience targeting strategy. Instead, brands can ensure that they best use the time, resources, and budget they have already spent on marketing to a specific user via programmatic advertising by continuing to send the user custom messaging even after the sale. 

Custom messaging after the sale also delivers a more consistent user experience. When users don’t have a consistent experience with your brand they are less likely to become repeat customers. Repeat customers have the best ROI since they convert in less time and often with less advertising, compared with more time, money, and resources needed to bring in a new user who’s converting/purchasing from your brand for the first time. 

You can continue to deliver custom messaging after the sale by gathering, analyzing, and acting on data from all of your touchpoints in the customer journey as a user moves through to conversion. This allows you to understand when and how users interact with each of your touchpoints so that once they purchase from your brand, you can continue to send them custom messaging post-purchase, such as how-to guides on how to use your product or service, or sales or coupons on products/services they have previously purchased from your brand. 

It is also important that messaging in your post-sale marketing aligns with your sales cycle. For example, if your product has a relatively long sales cycle, excluding users from any programmatic campaigns and instead including them in a nurture campaign can help prevent wasted budget or encourage an upsell instead of a repeat purchase. 

This can also be more cost-efficient for brands in industries with long gaps of time between a user’s first purchase with the brand and their next purchase from that brand, (ie. automobile industry). 

Pain Point #5  Lacking data freshness from your third party data providers

While there are a variety of enterprise-level analytics solutions (Google Analytics 360, Adobe Analytics, IBM Analytics etc.)  that offer real-time insights into customer behavior, some brands may not have the budget for them and instead need to rely on third-party data providers for information about their target audience. While third-party data gives you access to certain audiences you wouldn’t normally access, to make the most of it you need to ensure that it is fresh and accurate. Without fresh data, you aren’t able to see how and when your customers move through the conversion process and you risk wasting media budget displaying irrelevant ads to users who may have moved further through the conversion funnel. 

This is where first-party data becomes important. First-party data ensures data freshness and helps you better understand where customers are in the purchase cycle in real-time. First-party data also helps you ensure that your customers are still categorized in the correct segments at any given time.  This is especially important because a customer can actually fall into different categories during different parts of the conversion process, so you need to be able to adjust your audience targeting strategy accordingly. 

For example, if users have experienced certain life changes (getting married, having children, buying a house, etc) it could not only impact how and when they purchase from your brand, but more importantly your messaging to them as you continue to reach them through display advertising. 

Finally, real-time updates on where customers are in the conversion process can ensure help you spend media budget more efficiently since you can save budget by only advertising to relevant audiences. First-party data also tends to be higher quality compared to older data because it is more relevant and therefore more actionable as part of your overall audience targeting strategy. 

Bottom Line

Top brands focus on a strong audience targeting strategy to help make the most of their programmatic media campaigns. Strong audience-based targeting helps brands spend media budget efficiently allowing them to correctly segment users so that highly relevant ads reach them at the right time, in the right way, and at the right place. 

By understanding and solving some of the common pain points in audience targeting strategy, you can better understand how to drive conversions with your programmatic media in the most cost-effective way that encourages repeat customers, and brand loyalty now and long term. 


Ready to take your ads to the next level?  
DELVE is your strategic partner for site-side analytics, campaign management, and advanced marketing science. As experts in the Google Marketing Platform and Google Cloud Platform, DELVE drives client growth through a data-driven mindset that converts digital inefficiency into hard ROI.
SEE EXAMPLES of our experience and reviews from our clients.
Contact us to learn more about how we help our clients get advertising right.

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