Micro-target or Target Everyone?

Balancing reach with precision in your media strategy. What is the best way to get the right amount of reach but also the right precision? Some marketers are seduced by the promise of micro-targeted precision through digital media spend. Others go broad and target everyone. What is the right balance for your brand? Frustrating though it may be – the answer is “it depends”.

The author(s)

  • Keith Glasspoole Ipsos Connect, UK
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Marketers are under pressure. As the area of responsibility for CMOs changes and evolves, their average tenure is on the decline.


So, it’s no surprise that, just like the social media-fuelled consumers they are targeting, marketers are subject to intense FOMO: Fear of Missing Out on “the next big thing”.


Fear that your competitors are making better use of “new big things” than you are. Fear, above all, of being seen as behind the curve.


This fear has led some marketers into decisions which, with hindsight, they might consider rash – hence the recent comments by two of the great bellwethers of agency and advertiser thinking.


Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer of Procter & Gamble, was quoted in a recent interview as follows: “We targeted too much, and we went too narrow. And now we’re looking at: What is the best way to get the most reach but also the right precision?” 


Pritchard’s comments raise the topic of targeting – one which has become something of a dilemma for marketers in recent years.


On the one hand, “big data” allows micro-targeting through digital platforms and “programmatic”, and will give you the ability to learn and course-correct in real time.


On the other hand, a certain highly influential marketing text has questioned the whole idea of targeting, backed up by seemingly watertight data. This text is so influential that even the CFO has heard of it - he may even have read it.


Knowing the scrutiny which will be on the ROI which results from your decisions, which way do you jump?


The answer, inevitably if somewhat unhelpfully, is “it depends” – on the nature of the brand and its marketing challenge. To get to the right answer for a particular brand, it is critical for marketers to have clarity of understanding in two areas.


1. Who are you targeting, and why?

For many large mass market brands, the categories in which they operate are shopped infrequently, by consumers who care very little about their choice of brands. In these circumstances, the marketing challenge is to make marginal gains to your brand’s ability to come to mind, on those occasions when a category purchase is made.


Companies such as Mars are targeting everyone - but not all advertisers have the resources to communicate on the scale that such a strategy demands. You can tip the balance in your favour with clever media strategy, and in particular with impactful creative which engages the emotions, but smaller brands run the risk of being popguns against cannons.


For smaller advertisers, then, focusing on a target segment crafted around carefully considered consumer insight can be a more practical way to get a foothold in the short term.


2. What are you targeting with?

Fear of Missing Out has been associated with the use, and occasional over-use, of emerging digital media. Recent revelations around the way such media is bought, old and measured are giving rise to a new fear – Fear of Being Taken In.


Have you, for example, been seduced to optimise against metrics which, by the media owner’s own admission, are incorrect or irrelevant?


More than half of all UK advertising spend now goes into digital, and the bulk of that goes to Google and Facebook. And yet those two media owners are in control of a lot of the measurement metrics used to assess the effect of advertising on their platforms. Fox in charge of the henhouse? Marking your own homework? Choose whatever metaphor you like!


So – the answer to the question raised by the title of this piece is, and will always be, “it depends”. However, insight derived from consumers can help inform your decision of whether to target, and if you do, to increase your confidence about who you target, why, and with what.


Finally – resist the temptation to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Even as people’s media consumption habits have changed beyond recognition in the last few years, some key learnings have held true.


  1. Reach is more important than frequency. Excessive targeting can lead to excessive frequency. Excessive frequency leads to diminishing returns, poor ROI – and increased use of ad blockers…
  2. Creative is king. Unlike the content that surrounds it, advertising does not have an in-built audience – even when micro-targeted. It needs to earn the right to a place in people’s dwindling attention spans. Learn how to harness emotions to gain and retain that attention

The author(s)

  • Keith Glasspoole Ipsos Connect, UK

Media & Brand Communication