Series - A take on audiences (part 1 out of 5) | Articles

Is a meaningful digital marketing audience approach a technological or a structural challenge ?

From an advertising point of view ‘audience’ seems to be the new buzzword. The notion of audiences has been around ever since the rise of TV and radio where media agencies used the term through market research in order to justify choices. The popularity of the concept has been reaching new heights ever since digital has been exploding. Even though audiences have never been more popular, it remains a challenge for companies to leverage their full potential. What is creating the barrier to success when it comes to audience implementations?

Thinking that the availability of data itself is an issue would be an illusion. If we look at the market availability of audiences it becomes quite clear that the availability of data, and thus audiences, is overwhelming. Nevertheless the associated technologies and platforms do their best to offer a series of understandable features in order to manage these data points we refer to as audiences.

Some examples of advertising platforms and their audience related features:

  • AdWords - Remarketing Lists For Search Ads, Dynamic – X, Demographics For Search Ads, Similar Audiences, Customer Match, In-market Audiences, Affinity Audiences.
  • Facebook - Users who liked your page, Friends of users who liked your page, Remarketing audiences, Demographics targeting, Interest targeting, Behavioral targeting, Custom audiences, Lookalike audiences
  • DoubleClick - Remarketing Audiences, Similar Audiences, Affinity & Market Audiences, Additional 3rd party audiences
  • Twitter - Keywords, handles, behaviors, demographics

Looking at this (non-exhaustive list) is already quite impressive. At this point we’re not even mentioning the in-house data contained within CRM systems, data warehouses, email databases and Data Management Platforms (DMP’s).

Now, it’s clear that the availability of data and the capabilities of platforms to put them at use isn’t the blocking factor (even though their intercompatibility isn’t always great). The data is available and ready to be used. What could be so challenging that only few organisation succeed in putting together a great audience approach?


The actual issue is that the landscape isn’t organised or structured by default. It’s the marketeers role to have an overview of both the company’s objectives and the digital advertising landscape. However, marketers are often subject to one of two kinds of behaviors that exist as opposites within the same spectrum.


  • Extreme 1 - Marketers want to have perfect visibility on all their audiences, all the time. It has to be perfect before going into production. This results in elaborate flow designs that only exist in theory, are never completed and as a result are never put into practice. In this case fear to fail takes innovation as its hostage.
  • Extreme 2 - Marketers go in head first. “Better done than perfect” and “Jump off a cliff and build your wings on the way down” are typical expressions used by tech companies to foster innovation and entrepreneurship. Though they often serve their purpose they’re also used by marketers as a reason to activate new things / features instantly, going in head first without looking at the big picture. The result is that nobody has a view on what’s active anymore, for which reason and what the impact is. This is marketing chaos at its best.

The obvious fact is that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. In order to build a successful audience strategy we need a cocktail that contains both ingredients at exactly the right dose. To build a successful audience strategy the following 3 ground rules should be respected:

  1. Know your business. Know what products bring the most value and who are the customers that buy them. Look at your own company data before looking at external data. When it comes to data we only want more. Never forget that your own data is your biggest treasure. Make sure you understand what’s in there, it might tell you more about your business than all the employees together.
  2. Look at the big picture. Don’t put in place elements (audiences / platforms) because they’re new and shiny. Activate them because they will help you reach exactly the customers that help your company grow and thrive. Ask yourself what the value will be of the next audience or feature you activate? What do you expect to see and how will you measure this? Don’t go in head first, have an overview before making decisions.
  3. It will never be perfect. You will never have perfect visibility on every user, within every channel in order to build perfect flows (for now). Realise this, but don’t make it a showstopper. Don’t let theory kill progress.
In conclusion the true challenge of deploying a meaningful audience strategy lies not within the technology, but within the capabilities of the market (marketeers) to structure the information according to the needs of their businesses. A marketeer that is able to follow the above stated rules is already one step closer to success with audiences!
Author: Glenn Vanderlinden


Get in touch

Semetis | Boulevard Saint-Lazare 4, 1210 Brussels - Belgium

Connect with us

Cookie Policy

This website uses cookies that are necessary to its functioning and required to achieve the purposes illustrated in the privacy policy. By accepting this OR scrolling this page OR continuing to browse, you agree to our privacy policy.