Digital & Social Media

Microtargeting Leads to Macro Success

Microtargeting Leads to Macro Success

Microtargeting might be an expensive tool, but any brand spending more than a million dollars on television advertising is losing out if they don’t employ it, said Sara Fagen, partner at FleishmanHillard’s specialty brand DDC and one of the nation’s leading political and issue strategists. “It’s the cost savings and the efficiency of not just getting your content in front of eyeballs, but in front of the people you actually want to reach,” she said. “It’s amazing how much money is wasted on television.”

Microtargeting allows a brand to identify very specific slices of consumers by taking a population sample and building an incredibly detailed model of it, then projecting that model onto the rest of consumers. It allows advertisers to pick out groups such as women with a certain number of children at home or men with a certain education level. “You’re getting incredibly detailed information about (the sample): How they spend their time, their money, what they think about issues,” Fagen said. “Men with the same 45 characteristics: They vote the same way; they make purchase decisions the same way; they have an interest in the same issues.”

Fagen used car sales as an example. “There is a group of people you want to reach – those who are going to buy a car in the next six months,” she said. “The only consumers you really care about are the people getting ready to go into the market.” After identifying those getting ready to buy a car, the next task is to determine what motivates them to buy a particular car. “Maybe those men (we profiled) buy a product because it makes them feel good about themselves, or makes them feel important in society,” Fagen said. “So that ultimately is what’s going on in the back of their minds when they are deciding what car to buy. You want to cater to that emotion or that need.”

“It’s the cost savings and the efficiency of not just getting your content in front of eyeballs, but in front of the people you actually want to reach.”

In a nutshell, that’s what microtargeting does. In practice, it’s a complex series of steps to match the extraordinary amount of consumer data available with actual consumers and their attitudes and motivations. Companies conduct massive online surveys, asking people questions about what motivates them to do what they do. That information is combined with behavioral and commercially available data such as grocery loyalty programs and credit card purchases. “We start to get a picture from the data,” Fagen said. “There’s a male in the household; he’s 45-years-old; he drives an SUV; he has an income between X and Y; he’s a home owner; he subscribes to these magazines. You get this very rich data set. Then, you marry their survey answers and you get a sense of what motivates people and what makes them tick.”

Fagen helps clients learn “what causes your customers to identify with you? Is it loyalty? Is it the desire for a strong sense of family? That’s essentially the process of microtargeting. And that’s what the data we build does for our clients. They can leverage that to do better targeting. You can add more weight to the messaging because you’ve extended your budget, or you’re able to save some money because you’ve got more specificity.”

For all its efficiencies and ROI, microtargeting can be a hard sell to brands and corporations. First, it’s expensive, and then, there’s agency politics. Fagen tiptoed around the issue, but the fact is that microtargeting can be threatening to a traditional media buying agency. The knee-jerk reaction from some agencies is to protect their turf and claim they already do everything microtargeting does, just in a different way. Regardless, “It’s coming,” Fagan predicted. “Eventually everybody will do advertising in this way.”

“Eventually everybody will do advertising in this way.”

Digital content providers, healthcare, public affairs and politicians already are invested heavily in microtargeting. It will become a standard requirement of all companies as the companies themselves become more knowledgeable. “Maybe 5 percent of companies today have a chief analytics officer,” Fagen said. “But more and more are adding them. So when the right people are sitting at the table inside corporate America, they’re all going to do things this way – because they are going to demand better results.”

Fagen said digital is more advanced right now than television – because they were the early adopters. “I saw it first in the online space,” she said. “The smart targeting people broke down the barriers. Most companies now are starting to look at using much better targeting and not just relying on something from the trading desk.”

Microtargeting has huge cost benefits for television as well. “If you’re a company running this big image campaign and you’re trying to reach influentials, you can build a profile of the influential audience and know what they’re watching,” Fagen said. That’s common sense. But what microtargeting can do is find that “Face the Nation” watcher on a number of other – much cheaper – shows.



About the author

Maggie Sieger is an award-winning journalist and former Time Magazine correspondent, published also by Reuters, the Chicago Tribune, Entertainment Weekly, Realtor Magazine and Readers Digest, among others. She is the author of Deep in the Heart, the First 50 Years of Duchesne Academy. Sieger currently works as a freelance writer and media consultant in Saint Louis, Mo.