Digital and demographics – a marriage made in heaven

There is little doubt that online advertising must make more of demographics. We have become so focused on behavioural, that we often forget the ‘who’ part of the equation.

Demographics have been around since the early days of direct marketing, long before the Internet erupted. Mail-outs were A-B tested, just as landing pages and online ads are today. And audiences were segmented based on geo-demographics – the scientific way of telling who you are based on where you live. If you live in a four-bedroom house in Point Piper in Sydney’s east, for example, you are probably a wealthy family. You might even be the Prime Minister.


The same demographics can be used for your online ad campaigns today. The likes of Experian, Roy Morgan and Ipsos can provide the data to plug into your campaigns, but we need to make more of it – and the data probably needs to get richer. In the offline marketing world geo-demographics have enabled the direct marketing industry to identify a wealth of information based on where somebody lives. Every home in the country is segmented. We really need to see the same sort of granularity online.

In a way, it is repositioning our focus – marrying the old, but effective way of pigeonholing people with socio-demographics, with the feisty, young discipline of behavioural marketing. Imagine choosing only to dish out ads to those people who matched your target audience and had demonstrated the appropriate online or mobile behaviour. It is a killer combination that will give a clear picture of who is doing what, where and when.

Zooming into your target audience
To cut through the clutter, online advertisers have quickly evolved, tracking behaviours by using a wealth of behavioural data. Now, it is not just what you type in a search box that counts, but also how you act online. The mobile phone has added to that depth of knowledge and we are now starting to get a clearer picture of how you behave out in the real world.

By taking campaigns beyond the search term, behavioural advertising means we can reach people when they are in a receptive mindset. Perhaps when we are hunting for pictures of fluffy bunnies we are sufficiently relaxed to be reminded of an exceedingly good deal on fridge-freezers. If we are researching the finer details of neuroscience, perhaps not.

In theory, that sounds great for advertisers. We are pinpointing ads to people at the right time - and possibly in the right place – but there are drawbacks. One is we are still in the early days of developing effective algorithms. It might be just possible that I do not want to know about fridge-freezers when I am racing for a train. But I might be far more receptive when the train leaves the station, hopefully with me on it.

As we get smarter at developing behavioural algorithms we will get a clearer idea of when to hit people with a campaign message, but tracking behaviour will only ever be part of the picture.