Shhh! Avocados reveal that digital media isn't as targeted as you think
In some cases, it's the Pits
Just yesterday, Digiday posted an interesting report on digital media from the brand, Avocados From Mexico. It's well worth the short read, but here's what got my attention:
After finding that a majority of its digital ads were not reaching its target audience of women between the ages of 24 and 55, Avocados From Mexico is pushing for digital ad sellers to guarantee its ads hit the mark 70 percent of the time, as measured by Nielsen. But that can be costly to ensure.
Last year, Avocados From Mexico began asking publishers and digital ad platforms to guarantee that at least 40 percent of its digital ads would reach its target audience after the food company saw that only 20-30 percent of its ads were being shown to that audience segment. This year, the marketer is trying to raise its minimum on-target delivery threshold to 70 percent, said Ivonne Kinser, head of digital marketing at Avocados From Mexico..
The primary takeaway here is that, despite the hype, most of digital media channels are not as targeted as it made out to be. And it reminds one of the old adage about the wastefulness of advertising from 19th-century retailer John Wanamaker: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half.”
And it appears, in Avocados From Mexico's case, it's actually worse - at only 20-30 percent!
Several observations are worth noting here. Let's start with the willingness of the brand to be transparent about these findings. That takes guts to shine a light on one's own digital advertising performance. This should be a wake-up call to other brands to go through an audit of their campaigns as well. Also, you have to ask why Avocados From Mexico doesn't realign its digital advertising to be more targeted than 20-30 percent. Yes, it will cost more, but consider the expense of delivering non-targeted ads (like 100%!). And finally, it makes you wonder why digital ad platforms can't provide an acceptable targeting guarantee.
The post goes on to talk about how paid search gets a pass:
Avocados From Mexico isn’t worried about guaranteeing in-target delivery for everywhere it advertises online. Search advertising, for example, is not part of the guarantee push “because even if someone is not in the target, [by searching for a relevant term and clicking on the brand’s search ad] they are ready to take action with a product or service, so we want to be there,” said Kinser.
That's absolutely correct about the self-selection of searchers to the brand itself and speaks to the proper place of search marketing as a high priority for digital ad budgeting - with the insight that your most valuable audience is one that actively seeks you out. Avocados From Mexico can't fully fund all of the relevant keywords so it triages paid search around key moments. Not a bad strategy, but I also wonder how paid search could be set up for better targeting. It's two years old now, but Adwords now offers marketers the ability to target by demographics. Would be interesting to evaluate a paid search budget just to their Women 24-55 and see how far a search budget might stretch.
Again, the entire post is worth reading, but the conclusions for digital marketers are several.
First, re-examine your ad platforms and audit their targeting capabilities. This can be done in a couple of different ways. Work with a third-party verification solution such as Nielsen, or, request the platforms to provide this information (verified of course).
Second, conduct a trade-off analysis of the performance of non-targeted versus targeted placements. Yes, it could be that you may get more effectiveness from non-targeted placements if they are priced correctly to make up for the lack of targeting. The general rule here is the more focused on performance marketing you are, the more cost-efficiency will be a factor. For branding, however, the more targeted you are, the more 'effective' your advertising needs to be.
Third, move to more targeted platforms (an obvious). It's notable that Facebook gets high marks here. If your budgets are small, it's certainly a good strategy to just allocate to these platforms. A media plan dominated by Facebook/Instagram/Google/Amazon is perfectly fine.
Finally, be extra vigilant with the platforms to truly inspect their targeting claims, and if you are managing an active campaign, take a look at the ad placements and formats to make sure they are being served to your target. In other words, don't get snowed by their sales pitch or the lure of super cheap placements.
In the end, you'll hopefully exceed Wanamaker's (and your own) expectations!
What else have I missed to ensure better targeting? Feel free to leave a comment.