Location Data Insights

Individual Targeting - Brands and Advertising Techs Are Misaligned

May 4, 2016
Chris Cunningham
Chief Revenue Officer

Having just started in Unacast, the leading proximity platform, as Chief Revenue Officer I found myself wondering why more companies haven’t followed Facebook’s lead in dealing with real people in marketing.

Facebook is winning with brands. Why aren’t we replicating what works?

Targeting real people is the Holy Grail of brand marketers because individual targeting and attribution methods deliver better value to the end consumer by producing more relevant messaging and calls to action.

This, in turn, is good for brands -- that’s why so many of them do business with Facebook. So why is, when individual targeting is the goal, ad exchanges, DSPs and other advertising techs all seem to focus on audiences instead of people?

Brands and agencies are misaligned

Agencies aren’t set up for individual targeting because they get paid through volume and tonnage. To this end, agencies allocate budgets towards partners that can spend at scale, because it’s self-serving, not because it’s more efficient and smarter for the brand.

For their part, brands don’t have the in-house solutions or people power to target at an individual level. Though they sit on a mountain of data, brands don’t know how to extract meaning from it and apply that 1:1, so they end up going with the same old 3rd party tech providers (whose incentives aren’t aligned).

The key is to allow brands to re-target users at scale. The way to do this is by creating products that mirror what publishers with identity data have to offer, and leveraging tools and methods that are repeatable, easy to implement, track and measure. Direct brands, such as retailers, financial institutions and CPG’s seem like low hanging fruit.

Show them a path to taking controls in-house and getting their people trained-up, and establish new criteria and expectations for individual targeting and attribution, be it through their current ad tech stack, or some re-imagining of it. If Facebook is the gold standard, why not replicate it?

DSPs, exchanges and agencies have the most to lose

When brands change to individual targeting strategies, it is the current ad tech community that stands to suffer the most. All the demand side players (DSP's, exchanges, agencies) will see their already highly commoditized business squeezed and will struggle to stay relevant. Why?

Because their trade and bidding practice is built on audience. So, as brand’s perceptions of individual targeting change and they begin rethinking how to reach consumers, it will be a wake up call to the current ad ecosystem. The question is: Will any of the players listen (and respond to) to brand’s evolving demands?

How advertising techs can evolve

For those on the demand side that want to survive, identifying the best technologies for brands and retailers to reach their own consumers is a start. But It is also imperative to identify and focus on developing use cases and metrics for brands that want to validate the individual targeting approach and show enough wins to justify taking control in-house. This will require the ability to highlight traditional KPIs around insights, lift, performance and reporting, for starters.

Some of the key considerations for advertising techs to evolve with individual targeting:

Ensuring clarity - Now that your client has this what will they do with it? What is the value?

Establishing metrics - What insights and reporting can be garnered to validate data and measure performance? Aligning KPIs to what brands already understand is valuable.

Education - There will be a learning curve and brands will want help to accelerate their knowledge base. Relevance, efficiency and quality must be the pillars of all conversations. Summits, thought leadership content and case studies will help.

Focus on the here and now - Nobody projects revenue for the 12th of Never. Focus on what can be done today, in the U.S. market (retailer only to start?), and don’t sell anything outside that. Leverage the now.

Leverage partnership networks - The MMA, IAB, Moat, Emarketer and others have an important role to play

Get the pricing right - We know what brands want and what publishers have to offer. Go from there.


A focus on individual targeting will empower brands to have more control and yield net-new data of significance to all parties in the ecosystem, including a treasure trove of metrics around what works and when.

By focusing on the individual and reconstructing how brands approach users and customers, we will reach across the digital divide, connect online and offline data sets and bridge the gap between engagement and activation in both the digital and experiential realms.