It might not be something that a lot of advertising professionals would admit, but many studies show that there is still much confusion about how programmatic buying works. With this in mind, I wanted to bring things back to basics and analyse some commonly misunderstood programmatic topics, in order to help marketers understand how the technology can assist them to develop relevant and appealing ad campaigns.

The first part of this series explores audience data in granular detail – explaining what it is and how brands can use it effectively. My aim is to demystify the wonderful world of audience data and the key role it plays in driving the digital advertising landscape.

So what exactly is audience data?

Simply put, third-party audience data allows marketers to target ad views at a demographic, behaviour and psychographic level, providing information that no one would fill out in a single form. Audience data is categorised, collected and owned by a data provider that enables marketers to understand their target audiences. However, audience data is only effective if marketers employ the right data strategy behind it – that is why whether you are new to audience data, or a savvy media buyer, understanding the base foundations is imperative. 

Use the right metric

The right metric is important in measuring the success of campaigns as the effect of each strategy is different and should be measured differently. This enables marketers to analyse their data and monitor the results it is having on their campaign, ensuring that elements can be tweaked in real-time and retains better oversight of the campaign.  

Outline your target audience

Marketers should avoid marching straight into utilising audience data; it would be more beneficial for them to take some time out to settle on a clear vision of their target audience. For instance, suppose you are an advertiser who wants to reach consumers interested in purchasing diapers. From the broad group of your data, you need to narrow your parameters to focus on, for example, existing mothers, pregnant women, or parents and narrow the age group appropriately. Audience data delivers real results when it is driving business outcomes – but these have to be linked to a strategy.

Be open-minded about your strategy

You cannot paint all campaigns with the same strategy brush stroke – each one has different objectives and target audiences. Therefore, a one-size-fits-all approach will not necessarily work for every campaign. Marketers should be willing to reassess their strategy if it does not fit and look into alternative data strategies that might better suit their campaigns and desired outcome.

Use a combination of data strategies

Audience data can add depth and scale to marketers’ existing first-party customer data. The blend of the two can create wide-net strategies like retargeting, which can be more successful in reaching target audiences when used in conjunction with third-party data.

Beware of bot traffic

Bots that mimic human viewing are the bane of digital advertising. Research earlier in the year revealed how much of an exponential problem ad fraud is becoming: studies showed ad fraud will cost brands $7.2 billion this year, jumping from $6.3 billion last year. Advertisers need to monitor their bot traffic across non-audience activity as marketers can discover up to 15% of bot traffic across video formats on display ads.

Know your sources

Data is powerful because it helps advertisers engage people as human beings – rather than just a number. But not if it is outdated. What is more likely to happen, if the latter is the case, is that the advertiser will appear out of step with the individual’s path to purchase, thus delivering a poor user experience. Here are a few important questions to ask your data provider:

  • Where is your data coming from?
  • Is it collected from a publisher’s website?
  • Is it declared registration data?
  • How fresh is your data?
  • Is this data modelled from market research surveys, or collected from a small sample, and then used to reflect the entire population?

This simple checklist can help you determine the data’s relevancy to your campaign, its quality and flag any limitations. Any data provider should be happy to provide a transparent list of how they have compiled the data.