How we can reimagine audience targeting for 2023 and beyond

How we can reimagine audience targeting for 2023 and beyond

With a cookie-less future on the horizon, alternative solutions to data and audience curation will be make or break for brands and publishers to prove return on adspend, warns Yahoo’s EMEA chief.


The world of digital advertising has been in a state of noticeable flux for the past few years, with brands and advertisers grappling with shifting consumer priorities, the loss of third-party cookies and the rise of individual first-party solutions.

As the sands of the marketing landscape continue to shift, companies are seeking concrete and trustworthy strategies to meet their goals and land impactful campaigns. Because of this, the next phase of advertising will see the prioritisation of omnichannel campaigns—allowing for flexible testing and meeting the growing desire for cross-channel audience building and streamlined activity.

Brands and publishers are increasingly looking for a measurement-focused perspective when it comes to cross-channel campaigns, with many solutions already existing, and more emerging. With a cookie-less future on the near horizon, alternative solutions to data and audience curation will be make or break for brands and publishers to prove return on adspend (ROAS). These approaches are a necessity for staying competitive in a constantly changing environment for marketers.

The integrated future of the ad marketplace

Whilst traditional avenues like out-of-home, TV, and online advertising campaigns are still favoured and widely depended upon by brands, there is now a distinct focus on maximising creative that can work across multiple channels: blurring media channels to create a more holistic approach to ad campaigns.

Though much of the ad industry has been traditionally set up to service siloed channels, it’s no longer an option to operate elements of a campaign independently of one another without considering how they can interact with one another: from targeting audiences, to creative execution, to measurement.

Thankfully, with the vast programmatic advances of DOOH, CTV, audio, display, it is easier than ever to merge cross-campaign strategies.

Connecting to emerging omnichannel touchpoints

As all media channels are ultimately becoming “digital”, so we too see the blurring of very distinct ways of reaching audiences, as well as new channels emerging.

Gaming is a great example. Marketers have often seen gaming as a separate and niche audience to reach through a console, or in-game mobile ads or perhaps a sponsorship opportunity within esports. Now—with the rise of the casual mobile gamer, the advent of augmented reality mobile gaming, online game streaming and a huge rise in esports’ popularity—this audience has not only become a mainstream channel, but can be a vital part of an omnichannel approach when wishing to reach younger and more family-orientated audiences.

The global in-game advertising industry is expected to generate around £14.5 billion between 2022 and 2030 with the rise of mobile games propelling this growth. Increased access to console and virtual gaming gives brands the opportunity to grow and engage with audiences in a much more interactive and immersive way, whilst mobile games offer even more opportunities to deliver curated, contextually relevant ads on a larger scale.

Brands can look to amplify their on-platform campaigns by supporting activity with scalable omnichannel solutions, using data to expand their activity into larger more impactful channels like DOOH or prompting consumers to purchase with display outside of just the gaming world.

Making ad spaces smarter

For marketing, the focus, of course, is on privacy as users have more power to curate their ad experiences thanks to consumer-driven first party data solutions.

Brands who are left reeling by the removal of third-party data can still build their campaigns by taking a more direct route to relationship building with audiences, as well as maximising campaign effectiveness through the use of next generation targeting that uses contextual and other signals to better serve relevant ads to audiences when identity is not attached to an ad request.

With these new audiences in sights, the next step is to reconsider advertising as a whole. Advertising platforms and brands need to be maximising their messaging and impact on available ad space, and this means operating at scale across diverse channels. Using data and insights voluntarily offered by consumers helps brands’ ability to create and curate audiences, and advertisers can still use consumer feedback and measurement from previous campaigns to optimise future campaigns, all of which can be used to make targeted ads more effective.

As the cookie-less future looms ever closer (even if it seems to be continuously delayed), the onus is on brands to understand that every campaign and approach must be cognisant of the omnichannel opportunities, alongside the potential difficulties.

Measurement and audience curation was simpler in some ways once upon a time when each channel would be considered in its silo—even if that led to inconsistent measurement for a campaign’s overall objectives. Now, alongside privacy and targeting adjustments, brands must be mindful of the altered role of each channel within their campaign framework. Omnichannel advertising integrates the benefit of larger audiences and a wider opportunity for penetration of campaigns, whether it relies solely on first-party data or smarter contextual targeting.

To stay relevant and impactful, it’s vital that the wider advertising ecosystem creates consumer-centric solutions that benefit both publishers and advertisers in terms of targeting and measurement. Contextual targeting that can use multiple sources of information that do not rely on cookies or identifiers are one such example, as this helps give marketers the return on investment they want, thanks to audience curation and measurement, whilst ensuring privacy for the individual consumer if that is their preference.

At the root of every campaign lies measurable engagements against a budget, and omnichannel approaches across multiple avenues are the future of successful campaigns.

Connecting the dots between demand and supply

For the future of advertising, bringing DSP (demand side platforms) and SSP (supply side platforms) closer together is another essential step to ensure success. Connecting supply and demand seamlessly not only streamlines the ad-buying experience for brands but helps to drive transparency across the whole buying process. It ensures advertisers and publishers are fully aware of all and any intermediaries involved at every stage, while ensuring privacy-centric data sharing options, more robust results and analytics for publishers, and better cross-channel integrations through targeting, ad formats, creative and measurement for advertisers.

Partners that have SSPs that can connect supply partners to advertisers in DSPs to offer targeting, brand safety solutions, and real-time measurement across all channels will be best positioned to offer the holistic buying experience for advertisers that the new era of ad campaigns requires.

The past decade has seen rapid changes to the marketer’s role, as advertisers are expected to offer a full-service approach to campaigns to ensure brands drive meaningful work. The coming years will be the same, as consistent innovation across technology and digital spaces will introduce new elements that advertisers will be expected to adopt.

But no matter the changes, the core of advertising, traditional or emerging, comes down to understanding the audience and reaching them with the right creative messages—an evergreen skill that the best advertisers keep driving year after year.

Josh Partridge is head of EMEA at Yahoo.

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