The way advertisers are interacting with audience data is changing. While the appetite for consumer insights is as strong as ever, the once standard fare – broad sociodemographic information that reveals who is engaging with companies and brands – is being met by a demand for higher quality data that sheds light on the humans behind the numbers and the reasons for their engagement. 

This is one of the key take-aways of our Q1 Eyeota Index, a quarterly report that tracks thousands of campaigns across 60 countries to identify global trends in audience data usage. The need for audience data has existed in some form for as long as advertising has been around; but it’s the human value in the data that’s becoming a factor in its own right. In the first three months of this year, despite advertising expenditure slowing down around the world after a quarter of robust holiday consumption and spend – a seasonal occurrence that happens every year, advertisers continued to buy and use data in increasingly clever ways. They showed us that they want to learn more about consumers in order to target them with messages of greater substance, and with more likelihood of resonance. 

Trending now around the world  

So with audience targeting the optimal way to reach very specific audiences, which global sector placed the highest premium on targeting data in Q1? Government organisations – a statistic driven largely by the UK general election, where advertisers sought data that would reach young, educated users and business professionals for the prime purpose of campaigning. Worldwide, the charitable organisations sector also valued targeting specific niche audiences. With the spotlight now on the nature of charity fundraising activities, advertisers in this space seemed to look for precise demographic groups to target for cause-related donations. Both sectors also purchased high rates of purchase intent data, enabling them to create very specific calls to action for campaigns. Focused targeting will continue to be an area of interest for marketers in 2015. 

There are other interesting revelations about where audience data is heading globally and in Europe. Just as it swept from nowhere to the top of the Price Index, the government organisations sector also leapt to number one on our Growth Index – growing the most of any sector worldwide (57.6 times) in comparison to the rate of overall ad spend growth from Q4. The UK elections and general awareness campaigns by governments across the Asia-Pacific region contributed to this. Behind the government organisations sector was the food and beverage sector, which continued its upward trajectory from Q4. Heavy investments made by fast food chains in APAC helped drive this trend, for example. 

On the money trail 

When it came to actual expenditure, the worldwide travel and leisure sector spent the most on data overall in Q1 – growing 2.8 times from Q4 – overtaking the automotive and finance sectors. Of interest was the increase in spend from advertisers who were new to audience data within Europe, such as online travel booking sites, airports, and hotel chains. While consumer spending typically slows following the winter holiday season, vacation planning picks up in the New Year. 
We also observed the types of data the leading buyers actually spent their money on. On the Sector Spend Index, sociodemographic (53%) and purchase intent (19%) data were the segments of greatest interest overall. Soaking up over half of all advertising expenditure, sociodemographic data is clearly still the central pillar of marketing campaigns. 

Experimental Europe

Zooming in on Europe, a more sophisticated programmatic market than, say, Asia Pacific, we can again see digital strategies evolving to accommodate the human element. Data buyers are increasingly requesting a mix of data types and are willing to experiment with the differences in audiences as the basis for their campaigns. The Index shows that sociodemographic and purchase intent were the segment categories most purchased by European advertisers, but there was a good mix of B2B, interest, and seasonal segment requests in there too. 

In broadening the scope of their audience data, marketers are effectively learning more about consumers – layering knowledge about what motivates them over who they are and where they are from. With Europe following the US in advancing this approach, we anticipate that the rest of the world will follow with similar ambitions. 

There’s a lot for marketers to consider and learn from all of this. It’s clear that companies and brands are riding the next wave of their relationship with audience data. Niche versus volume; quality versus accessibility – the opportunities open to those working within programmatic are more exciting than ever. In an environment where consumers have the power to dictate the level and degree of brand engagement, marketers can respond by better understanding their needs through more sophisticated data mixes to deliver relevant campaigns to the right audience. Supplementing the king of them all, socio-demographic data, with different audience data types can give marketers new insights into the human behavior that drives customer behaviour.  

In conclusion, we foresee continued demand for high quality data with scale and reach into the coming quarters. With billions of transactions taking place in programmatic each minute, the possibilities for using audience data are endless. Advertisers, jump on board.