The science and art of crafting a comprehensive targeting plan

November 7, 2023 | 4 minute read
Tim Carr
Head of Marketing, Oracle Advertising
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There is an old saying that marketing is part science and part art. It applies to many aspects of the craft and is particularly relevant to reaching and engaging your target customers.   

There are two ways we accomplish this targeting through digital media; the first approach is using digital audiences that use vast amounts of behavioral data and known attributes, often modeled using sophisticated techniques, then delivered through an identity graph to reach those individuals.  

Audience targeting skews heavy on the science end of the spectrum and for the strategist, creating a targeting plan with audiences can often be a straightforward exercise. Choose the behavior you want to emulate, such as 3+ buyers of your brand over the past six months, then build a purchase-based model to find individuals who most closely spend like and resemble that seed group. Next determine how large you want to scale that model, and finally deploy it in the channels and platforms you advertise. It's almost like the set-it-and-forget-it approach because of how effective those models are at finding likely buyers.

The second approach, contextual advertising, targets the content that your customers and prospects are likely to be consuming, rather than the individuals themselves. It does not rely on identity attached to people and is inherently more privacy centric. And with increased privacy awareness and changing regulations, contextual targeting will only become a more prominent element in advertisers targeting mix.

While audience targeting skews heavy on science, contextual targeting leans more towards the art side of marketing. To execute contextual effectively, you must have a deep understanding of who it is you are trying to reach. Why they may need your product or service and when they would consider it. And you need to understand their overall interests and motivations. Then, connect these insights to various types of contexts that align with those motivators.  

There is an art to making those connections and aligning your creative to be contextually relevant. When you do so, it increases breakthroughs and captures greater attention. As you scale your contextual plan to reach more people, you may need to stitch together various contexts to reach people in those critical moments. That too is an art, almost like stitching together a patchwork quilt that tells a story.

While there are many ways to apply contextual targeting, here are five common uses that you should consider:

Functional alignment – the foundation of an effective contextual plan starts with the primary uses of a product or service and the type of content someone would engage with before using it. For example, when marketing baking flour, you would insert your ads contextually around recipe content.

Point of market entry – these are the entry points a consumer often goes through when entering a category or segment that they have yet to purchase before. Think of life stages or significant milestones that may precipitate changes in buying behavior, such as having or adopting a child, which may lead to entering the diaper, formula, and baby furniture categories.

Seasonal alignment – when observing significant repeatable year-over-year spikes in sales, you can identify buying patterns and their drivers to advertise around related content. For example, the lip balm category experiences a massive surge in sales the week of December 18th every year. Not because lips suddenly become chapped that week (functional alignment) but because it’s such a common last-minute stocking stuffer purchase for the holidays.  

Persona-driven alignment – in addition to how, when, or why a product or solution is used, context can also find specific personas or audiences based on their interest. For example, an EV automotive manufacturer may target content related to fuel efficiencies, battery ranges, or the latest new model releases, or they can go more broadly and target any green/sustainability-related content to reach people who may be more predisposed to consider an EV.  

Purpose-driven alignment - While most advertising is delivered to help drive sales, many brands have underlying goals or missions beyond simply making a profit. It's a desire to make a positive impact on the world, culture, and the communities where those brands are sold or produced. Contextual allows advertisers to place ads around these relevant causes and direct their media budgets to the publishers and content creators supporting them.

The why and what behind context leans heavily into the art side, but be aware that there is plenty of science under the hood in how to do all of this effectively. In the coming weeks, we will delve deeper into a follow-on five-part series that further unpacks each use case, giving additional examples of how advertisers can apply the concepts and the solutions available to activate them in your campaigns.

For help crafting your comprehensive contextual targeting plan, please contact your Oracle Advertising account management team, or you can request a consultation.

For more blogs in this series, please see below:

Tim Carr

Head of Marketing, Oracle Advertising

Tim Carr leads marketing for Oracle Advertising’s suite of digital media solutions, including audience targeting, contextual intelligence, data onboarding, ad verification, and attention measurement solutions.  Before joining Oracle, Tim spent 20 years working in the CPG industry, holding various roles in sales, insights, and strategy at Pfizer Consumer Healthcare and in shopper analytics and loyalty marketing at IRI and Catalina.

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