This article originally appeared in the MediaPost -
In the age of real-time bidding, today’s targeting platforms are designed to transcend ethnicity. A bid made for an impression on an online ad exchange is routed in past behavior, which is supposed to tell us everything we need to know about the people we reach. It’s algorithmic, automated and most importantly: it’s bias free.
But freed from bias also means free from seeing race at all. In a business where understanding your audience is the first rule, it’s essential to follow the ethnic and cultural factors that shape an online identity. That’s not racist, that’s being informed. We’ve been reminded too many times recently why culture and ethnicity matters in our society, and the way we conduct digital targeting is not above or impervious to this rhetoric.
Race isn’t important because it’s an issue of compassion or conscience. It’s all about more precise targeting and ROI. Most people know that the Hispanic population is growing, nearly tripling in size since 1990 and representing more than half of the nation’s growth in both population and consumer spending. They don’t know that on digital channels, Hispanics are an active and attractive online population.
According to Nielsen, that large amount of time spent on digital channels is rising steadily. Each day, Hispanics spend 20 percent more time consuming digital content on PCs, 56 percent on smartphones and 100 percent on tablets, compared to last year. Google cites that 66 percent of U.S. Hispanics say that they pay attention to online advertisements —nearly 20 percentage points greater than the general population. Treating their impression like everyone else’s might be algorithmically accurate in a given moment, but it might not be as lucrative in the long-term.
My message to brands: don’t lump Hispanic impressions in with the general population within your real-time bidding platform. Go after them! They’re a more lucrative, fast-expanding and digitally active cultural segment, and smart brands are customizing digital targeting strategies to capitalize on their growth.
Doing so involves blending a bit of the old school with the new school.
The most sophisticated and comprehensive way to obtain ethnic data is the U.S. Census, who has tracked and mapped demographic trends since 1790. That might seem antiquated at first, but consider that companies have created data sets that specifically correlate and project data around certain populations, including their country of origin and acculturation level. This isn’t your father’s Census – it’s specific, comprehensive and targeted data designed to tell you everything you need to know about multicultural populations.
Understanding cultural nuances regarding a certain ethnicity helps hone in on specific target buyers and their location. For consumer-focused brands, establishing physical locations where target buyers reside can be especially helpful for brick and mortar. Many brands also have large datasets of addresses and customer information, which historically have guided direct mail campaigns, but can be correlated with demographic data to determine your customer’s cultural characteristics.
An emerging branch of audience targeting is done at the IP level, allowing brands to associate a physical address with an IP address. If brands have a robust dataset of physical addresses, anonymous matching can direct display ads to gain an impression with an online ad exchange navigating the bid on the backend. The end result is an exact targeting platform that’s rooted in sophisticated data, placing digital content that’s both linked to online behavior, but culturally and demographically accurate as well. A group that outpaces the US population deserves to be better understood, and it takes this unique blend of targeting to take digital marketing to the next level.
At the end of the day, we all understand that programmatic is the future of ad targeting. However, we must consider the human nuances that define our audiences, especially those that will play an increasing part in the future of many of our brands. So don’t avoid ethnicity, embrace it. Doing so is not only best for your brand, it puts you on the inside track to the largest future consumer group in the country.