Demographics vs intent targeted advertising – which is more important?


Targeted advertising on traditional media

Targeting users by their demographics profiles was, for decades, the only way we could reach our targeted audience. For example, your audience were females between 30 and 50 years who lived in some area. Then, you would find a channel they used and create a marketing campaign for them. In a nutshell, that how it’s done, and that is the only targeted advertising we could have.

Targeted advertising on the internet

But for many products, the situation is not that simple. Let’s take diapers, for example. Who buys diapers? Everyone would say, moms. But what about dads? What about friends? What about grandparents? What about godfathers? They buy diapers as well. 

Or, who buys furniture and when?

Or, who buys vacation packages and when?

If we look at the customer journey in today’s world, we see things are not that simple. People use the internet to do some research before almost any purchase. We Google. We ask our friends on Facebook. We use Quora and many review sites. We leave tracks, which help Google and Facebook and many others to create our profile with many more data than just our demographics.

As advertisers, we can use this data to target those users. Now, we are not just Mark, 34, lives in New York, we become:

  • Mark
  • 34
  • Lives in New York
  • Married
  • Had children
  • Loves to travel
  • Frequent business traveler
  • Avid football fan
  • Loves Liverpool football club
  • Likes to watch videos about Formula 1
  • Eats in restaurant 3 times per week

To every advertiser, this is a gold mine of data. This is real targeted advertising.


Facebook Interest Targeting

Can Facebook and Google do our job with automatically targeted advertising?

A couple of months ago I decided to purchase a flat. I started browsing websites of real estate agencies to find a flat. Almost immediately, I began seeing ads like these on Facebook and Instagram.



Facebook Interest Advertising Example

Facebook Interest Advertising Example

What I think, Facebook used machine learning to realize, Ilija, 33, is buying a home (because Facebook knows those websites I visited are related to home-buying). Ilija might need products or services from Ikea and other companies that advertise on Facebook. Good for those companies as they are reaching a more targeted audience and good for me as I’m getting ads that are relevant to me.

Now, as advertisers, we don’t think what’s the age of people buying a home. They can be 21 or 59, it doesn’t matter. What matters is their intent – are they buying a home or not. And we use targeted advertising to reach them using Google and Facebook advertising.

In the future, all of this will be more and more automated. As an advertiser, I will tell Facebook and Google: my clients are selling this product, please do your job. The future of media and advertising will be more and more digital.