Complexity of Targeting Variables Hurts Display Ad Campaign Efficacy

comscore-ads-delivered-to-demographic-target-by-variables-march2012.jpgDisplay ad campaigns with multiple demographic targeting variables have trouble reaching their intended audience, finds comScore [download page] in a March 2012 analysis of 12 national premium brand’s advertising campaigns. Campaigns with 3 variables (e.g. women + 25-54 years old + with children under 18 in the home) delivered impressions to the target an average of just 11% of the time. By comparison, those with 2 variables reached their intended audience an average of 48% of the time, while those with 1 variable delivered impressions to the target 70% of the time.

Half Target Behavioral Segments

The vast majority (90%) of the campaigns studied included age in their target set, while the ability to reach a behavioral attribute was the next most-common, at 50%, ahead of gender (44%). Just 6% of campaigns included household income or presence of a child in their target set.

Across the campaigns, the average campaign reached its behavioral audience target 36% of the time, with a range of 23-67%. The report notes, though, that in some campaigns, the behavioral attribute target did a better job delivering on-target impressions than the demographic group. It also notes that for the purposes of the study, the campaigns were not optimized in-flight, meaning that no corrective action was taken throughout the course of the campaign to improve the extent to which these ads were able to reach their target audience. With in-flight optimization, comScore suggests it is highly likely that all campaigns would have seen improved on-target delivery rates for both their demographic and behavioral targets.

Non-English-Speaking Countries Get Some Impressions

The campaigns in the comScore study all had a geographic target of the US. Despite this, 4% of ads were delivered outside the US. And although close to half of those were delivered to Canada, a significant proportion of the wasted impressions were delivered to countries whose native language is not English, including India, the Philippines, Germany, and South Korea.

According to an AdSafe report released in February 2012, the UK received the largest amount of the US’ non-geo-targeted content in Q4 2011, at 22.8%. Canada (17.2%) received the next-largest proportion of these impressions, followed by China (11.1%).

Other Findings:

  • 72% of the campaigns had some impressions served in content not deemed brand safe, though the proportion of impressions was less than 0.01%. Even so, this meant that 92,000 people saw these ads.
  • The average campaign had 0.16% of total impressions delivered via non-human spiders and bots, as identified by the IAB, ranging from 0.03% to 0.49%.
  • Looking at the intersection of in-view (58%), in geography (84.7%), and on-target (38.9%) ad impressions for a sample campaign, the study determined that a combined total of one-third of the ads were delivered according to plan.

About the Data: The comScore US-based validated Campaign Essentials (vCE) Charter Study involved 12 national brands, 18 campaigns, 3,000 placements, 381,000 site domains and 1.7 billion ad impressions. Select advertisers from the charter study include Allstate, Chrysler, Discover, E*TRADE Financial, Ford, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Kimberly Clark, Kraft, and Sprint. All of the impressions analyzed in the study were delivered in iframes and none required publisher site pixels. The study notes that because vCE Charter Study participants included major branded advertisers, who inherently buy more premium inventory than the average online marketer, the study findings are not necessarily representative of the overall online advertising market. In fact, because these advertisers generally engage in high- end, premium campaigns, the findings may represent “best-case scenarios,” rather than the norm.