Almost half of online campaigns don’t reach their target audience, showing the struggle many brands face to target effectively through digital, according to new research.
The study conducted by measurement company Nielsen found UK campaigns reach their target just 47% of the time. Travel brands are the most successful at reaching their desired audience, at 66% of the time. Entertainment came in second at 64%, while FMCG and retail struggled, at just 40% and 42%.
Nielsen puts the results down to the fact digital has not lived up to marketers’ expectations and that many brands are not using digital in the way it should be used, with targeting not being conducted correctly.
“Digital was made out to be the ultimate targeting system and measuring platform, but it has not lived up to that. People soon found it is based more on devices, cookies and impressions than reach,” Barney Farmer, Nielsen’s marketing effectiveness director for the UK and Ireland, tells Marketing Week.
He continues: “Some marketers think they can just apply traditional marketing to digital. They need to look at digital media on its own and think about how you can target and measure it. On a general level I think the ability to target to the exact audience you want has always been difficult.”
Digital was made out to be the ultimate targeting system and measuring platform, but it has not lived up to that.
Barney Farmer, Nielsen.
Farmer believes FMCG and retail marketers are struggling because they apply “traditional targeting methods” to digital. Procter and Gamble recently admitted as much, saying it was because it didn’t lead to the expected sales boost.
Nielsen found targeting accurately also varied depending on demographic. It reported that campaigns targeting 25- to 44-year-olds reached their desired audience 38% of the time, compared to 58% for campaigns targeting those aged between 35 and 64.
This is in part because older audiences are more used to traditional media and being advertised to. Farmer says it also comes down to the older demographic not being as tech savvy or clearing out their cookies as often when compared to younger audiences who “have been conditioned to be more cautious”.
The UK’s mass targeting approach means it it losing out
UK campaigns also perform worse than many of their European counterparts. In Germany the percentage of campaigns reaching their target audience is 58%, while in Italy it is 57%.
“Within Europe, the UK will always be the place to start, meaning advertising and digital has typically been larger in the UK, leading to more mass targeting. The other countries mentioned can be more targeted and so are much better on measurement,” he explains
Farmer believes marketers can improve their targeting by looking to the travel sector, which he says has “always done well”, due to the fact it has focused on targeting segments and audience from the start, when people are more willing to give information about themselves away.
Jamie Queen, group marketing director for Thomas Cook, agrees and says its targeting reach is helped by the fact it invests time getting to know its customers.
“We know what devices our customers use at different stages in their journey, from researching where to go, to booking their trip, to sharing their experiences. We use this information to speak to our customers with the right message at the right time,” he tells MW.
However, while the data is important, Alessandra Di Lorenzo, chief commercial officer, advertising and partnerships, at Lastminute.com, believes marketers must find the “perfect blend of science and art” when dealing with digital marketing in order to remain relevant.
“While focus and accuracy is good, brands should avoid being too granular in their approach. It makes absolute sense to target specific audiences but this shouldn’t come at the cost of alienating similar audiences who may also have an interest in a particular product or promotion,” she explains
“The data used to target must be accurate, but it’s only valuable if the audiences and creative executions have been carefully crafted too – and vice versa. This all comes back to providing helpful information at the perfect time, and becoming a useful part of the customer’s journey,” she adds.