The human element of data-led advertising

Tasneem Ali considers how marketers can bring the human element back to their advertising strategy through market research and listening to their customers.

Data-driven advertising, at its core, is about finding the right sources of information and insights to determine who exactly your audience is. What do they care about? How do they spend their time? and – most importantly – what do they like to spend their money on?

Today, such sources of information vary widely, not just in terms of what can be uncovered, but also in terms of the quality of insights that can be delivered. Take web behaviours for example. ‘Cookie-based’ targeting is one of the oldest methods of harvesting data online, but with Google phasing out third-party cookies by 2022 – and many cookies in breach of new privacy laws – they’re on the way out.

In terms of social segments, sites such as Facebook offer sophisticated targeting and the ability to drill down to very granular audiences, but this targeting can only be used on one platform alone. Data marketplaces and aggregate services offer large audiences, but data sources are often undisclosed and the quality of information can be poor. There are also growing compliance issues such as different jurisdictions introducing data legislation around such information. First-party CRM data is the company’s own data and is often the best avenue, but it tends to come in much smaller volumes.

The role of market research

While each source of information has its own benefits, there can be a danger in over-reliance on ‘faceless’ data, and numbers and statistics alone don’t tell the whole story. While behaviour-based targeting allows marketers to present their message to people who are actively buying from a specific category, it’s impossible to know if they’re still really in the market to purchase from you. They could have been purchasing a gift for a relative as a once-off, or they may have since bought the product from another retailer, meaning that media budgets are being wasted by talking to the wrong people.

This is where research comes in. Market research can tell you what your audience values, and why. It does this simply by asking people what they think – the human element that’s missing from other advertising avenues.

Tracking shifting priorities

We know that the pandemic has led to big shifts in people’s priorities and consumer behaviour. With hundreds of thousands of people losing part or all of their income, being confined to their homes, and no longer able to travel or carry out holiday plans, it can’t be expected that consumer interests and spending patterns are going to be the same.

This has led to a knowledge gap for marketers because old behaviours – and the data that recorded them – is now out-of-date. New research is needed to find out what consumers want in the ‘new normal’. When we polled Pureprofile members earlier this year, we discovered that more than half were moderately or extremely concerned about their financial situation, and 59 percent reduced their spending. Big plans and large retail purchases (cars, white goods) were on hold, but there was an increase in spending on household staples such as rice, pasta and toilet paper as well as streaming entertainment services.

Through carrying out this human, panel-based research, marketers can anticipate trends and take a more proactive approach in campaigns. By asking people what their intentions are and what their concerns are, we can predict what they may buy more or less of, rather than waiting for the sales figures to come in.

So, how can marketers bring the human element back to their advertising strategy? Firstly, by connecting research to media by taking declared insights and executing marketing campaigns that achieve business goals. Secondly, by building deep audience profiles from first-party data, and finally, by using technology such an ad profiler. This allows marketers to ask questions and reveal answers that lead to a greater understanding of target audiences, and honour what’s important to these groups.

Ultimately, consumers value being listened to and treated as individuals. According to one iconic statistic, 68 percent of customers walk away from a product or service because of “perceived indifference” – not necessarily because they are a dissatisfied customer. Engaging with customers to get their feedback and find out what they really want is a critical interaction that benefits both marketers and consumers.

Tasneem Ali is the Head of media business at Pure.amplify. 

Photo by Marina Vitale on Unsplash.