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Maximizing Media Impact with Custom Audiences


For marketing teams, the fourth quarter of the year can feel like a tug of war between wanting to maximize the seasonal opportunity and wanting to keep advertising costs under control. Between rising media expenses and declining share of voice, brands must make each dollar work harder. In fact, ads in November are 43 percent more expensive on Meta, according to Good Rebels, meaning buyers are literally getting less for their dollars. In many cases, brands may attempt to optimize advertising spend by adjusting a media plan, updating creative or including a new offer.

However, none of those aspects matter if you are not reaching the right people. And for brands looking to reach niche audiences, this can be a challenge.

While reaching the right customers is crucial year-round, there is no season when it is more important than the holidays. In this highly competitive season, marketers looking to reach their best customers – especially those in unique markets – need custom data-driven strategies to stay ahead and get the most out of their Q4 advertising budget.

The Power of Custom Audience Targeting

According to the American Marketing Association, advertising costs increase by a staggering 25 percent or more during the weeks surrounding Black Friday. With high advertising costs, November and December are not the time to "spray and pray" or attempt to reach every possible customer and see what sticks after Cyber Monday. Using custom audiences, appended insights, and predictive datasets can help answer a lot of questions about both niche audiences and holiday shoppers.

So, which industries can benefit most from this strategy?

Carefully crafted custom audiences created from reliable data can boost marketing performance for nearly every vertical. In fact, industries with broad target markets such as automotive, retail, healthcare and adtech as a whole regularly turn to custom audiences and modeling to boost performance.

Rather than mass advertising their new luxury SUV, an automotive brand might consider creating a custom audience by combining auto purchase intentions, vehicle type preferences and even purchasing style. Imagine how results might improve if they were able to target a specific group of individuals likely to be in the market for a vehicle, prefer SUVs and are attracted to luxury features.

A retailer running a limited-time promotion on baby products purchased through their mobile app could rely on a custom audience to increase conversions. By combining attributes such as demographics, purchase style, and decision drivers, the retailer has the opportunity to reach their exact target audience of individuals in the right life stage, who are likely to make purchases on their smartphone specifically and possess a high level of spontaneity when it comes to their shopping to maximize their campaign results.

Even non-consumer industries like healthcare can improve their marketing and communication in the form of personalized patient engagement with custom audiences. Health systems wanting to ultimately improve outcomes by increasing patient education outside of the doctor's office could leverage a custom audience that considers patients primary languages, preferred marketing communication channels and even social factors impacting their health. This would ensure they are reaching patients in a way they can understand, via a channel that is likely to be consumed and in a context that is relevant to their specific life situation.

An Agency's Need for Niche Data

However, custom audiences can especially benefit those industries with extremely niche, unique or otherwise hard-to-reach audiences. For example, Lessing-Flynn, the longest-standing independently owned ad agency in the U.S., needed to identify key decision-makers in the B2B animal healthcare space. Some media teams would assume with an audience so niche, they should simply go wide to capture any potential prospects or utilize traditional trade media only. However, Lessing-Flynn took a data-driven approach and targeted possible professions that should be included, using both NAICS and SIC codes. They even went deeper by focusing on specialization within animal species.

The proof was in their performance — media aimed at these custom audiences outperformed other audience targets by as much as 2.3 times.

With the ability to reach specific audiences and with performance-boosting benefits ranging across a wide spectrum of industries, custom audience targeting can serve as a powerful baseline to plan your next campaign and effectively manage your marketing budget – no matter how specific your target.

Managing the Increased Media Costs of Q4 Marketing

Many marketers simply choose to opt out of paid spend or drastically reduce spending during the highest spikes in ad costs. On the other hand, many industries depend on solid Q4 revenue to make their year and do not have the luxury of simply "sitting this one out." By combining features from first-party data or layering on quality external data sources from trusted providers, marketers can create and utilize custom audiences along with a range of tactics to enhance the customer experience and ultimately improve Q4 conversions.

Deep discounts can drive conversions but apply selectively.
In the pursuit of conversions, many brands offer major discounts. It can be a smart move when consumers are managing inflation and making tough choices. However, not all prospects within your target are the same and some may respond better to an offer for free shipping, while others will load their cart if offering 25 percent orders over $300. Even if you have refined your target and plan to make offers available, do so intelligently to maximize the impact of your ad dollars.

Offer "buy now, pay later" options for customers to take better advantage of deals.
"Buy now, pay later" or BNPL services are anticipated to increase by a whopping 17 percent compared with 2022, according to Adobe Analytics. According to Adobe's research, 1 in 5 consumers plan to use BNPL options this buying season. Custom audience targeting can help determine which consumers will be attracted to these options and perhaps even change their selections based on a specific offer. For the other 80 percent, this audience data can serve as a baseline to strategize how to use media investments more wisely, reach them with a more strategic offer to maximize conversion.

Guide mobile-hungry users to environments ideal for conversion.
According to Adobe Analytics research, mobile spend is anticipated to increase and surpass desktop conversions during this holiday shopping period, with 51.2 percent of online spend. However, 51.2 percent is still a far cry from 100 percent. Many consumers may still prefer the desktop experience. When making decisions on resourcing, whether it be for a mobile app, mobile browser, or desktop, let data be a determining factor. Append your customer data with attitudes towards technology and in particular online shopping to deliver effective Q4 marketing campaigns.

Reduce return rates with intelligent custom audience targeting.
According to Pitney Bowes, online returns cost a retailer around 21 percent of the order value. Ouch! If returns are negatively impacting the bottom line of your brand, a new custom audience can strike the right balance. So, maintain consumers that are in-market and likely to convert. But reduce the volume of ads pointed at segments of your audience that are likely to be high-volume returners.

One-Size-Does-Not-Fit-All During High Media Cost Seasons

The high-impact holiday season is upon us. As the competition heats up and advertising costs rise, marketers should reexamine their data strategies and how they are optimizing their audience targeting. The powerful performance that custom audience targeting lends to campaign efforts cannot be overstated. Whether targeting a broad market or a niche audience, marketers facing the daunting task of Q4 should ensure that they have robust and custom audience data in order to optimize their outreach with impactful tactics and cut through the holiday season traffic.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Margo Hock is VP of digital partnerships at AnalyticsIQ.