Measuring the Accuracy of Audience Targeting across Campaigns and Tactics

Imagine you’re on a week-long fishing expedition you’d been planning for months. You bought all the best gear to set yourself up for success, but three days in have caught disappointedly few trout. What would you do to improve? You might consider adjusting a few key variables: using different bait, trying in different conditions, or casting at different times of day. But before doing any of that, you’d make sure trout are even in your river before the trip comes to an end. 

The same scenario is faced everyday by difital advertisers. A complex set of variables affect the performance of any campaign: creative, frequency, publisher, day part, and audience targeting just to name a few. As we explored previously, this last variable is one of the most critical to optimize and yet is most difficult to validate. 

Digital channels allow advertisers to target using first-and third-party audiences that represent a unique subset of the population beyond simply age and gender. For example, a hardware brand may want to reach DIYers and a beer brand may have designed creative for football fans. Once the campaign is underway, advertisers can optimize the campaign by many variables but have virtually no insight into how well the target audience – trout in the river – is being reached. 

Upwave’s targeting verification product is built to help advertisers understand the accuracy of their audiences and tactics by (a) establishing a census rep baseline for the unique target audience and (b) measuring the makeup of the population reached by the campaign against the baseline. Equipped with that understanding in real-time, advertisers are able to make effective budgeting decisions that truly account for reach v. accuracy trade-offs while the campaign is in-flight. 

To illustrate the importance of targeting verification, we examined the accuracy of targeting compared to a census rep baseline to understand what levels of accuracy an advertiser should expect for various audiences. We found that performance is on the whole lower than one might expect but varies significantly between campaigns, which underscores the importance of real-time monitoring and optimization.