How creative is steering the algorithm for audience targeting in the age of AI

Katie McMahon

Katie McMahon

Associate Director

27th February 2024

~ 4 min read

With transforming data and privacy laws over the last several years, audience targeting has taken a notable turn, with creative now leading the charge and marketers increasingly relying on artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

While you could continue to create long lists of platform-provided audience interests and hashtags to build out your target audience, this ultimately won’t help you bolster the impact of your marketing campaigns or drive growth. So how can marketers lean into AI technology to seamlessly identify the right target audience?

Maintaining data integrity

As users are given more control over their data tracking and we inch closer and closer to cookie deprecation, the carefully monitored data signals we once had through pixels are getting weaker. Industry leaders like Google and Meta have made it a priority to maintain data integrity for media campaigns, and they’ve done so by using machine learning, which leverages a combination of tracked and machine learning-estimated actions to optimize campaigns. 

If we dissect the likes of recent emergers, such as TikTok, it’s evident that machine learning was worked into the original platform’s DNA. TikTok was developed in a way that keeps creative front-of-mind, using cues within video content to determine the right ‘customized algorithm’ that is assigned to each user based on their surfing behavior. This has given these newer platforms an upperhand, leading other vendors to feel the need to catch up.

Shifting from audience-directed to audience-informed

Just a few years ago, your account team would have been hyper-focused on finding the right mix of interest targeting or the most refined selection of look-a-like seed lists to drive campaign success. But as the platforms we buy media through further develop their algorithms, the traditional audience selection strategy falls short of the results we see from broad audience targeting powered by AI. 

So how do we optimize campaign performance if the algorithms are doing the heavy lifting?

Instead of working against machine learning, we’ve leaned into it. The planning tools we use to understand our audience’s media consumption can also help us gather insight on what behaviors and perceptions our target users have. We can leverage this information to develop creative testing plans, including what subjects, tone of voice, and themes we can incorporate into our assets. 

Performance creative is assessed against our best practice scorecard prior to testing, to ensure in-platform tests are focused on validating or challenging business-impacting hypotheses. If possible, we prefer to pre-test the creative in a small environment and in-situ prior to rolling it out to our entire target audience. This ensures that we never waste media dollars on creative that won’t be effective in market. We can pre-test through surveying and focus groups ahead of any platform launches.

Differentiating by market

If your business is international, it’s important to understand local preferences and cultural nuances that you may need to take into account when developing your creative. Something that comes off as playful in one market could be perceived as offensive in another. Through Croud’s global network of 2,400+ digital experts, we’re able to tap into this local insight all over the world, quickly and in a cost-effective manner. 

Right place, right time

Any marketer could build the most compelling creative in the world. However it would have zero impact if we’re running that ad on a channel where our target audience is not spending their time consuming media. Croud’s Strategy & Planning team have access to various audience planning tools that provide insight into what channels and platforms your audiences use and how much time they’re spending across each. Delivering an effective campaign is not only about creating impactful creative, but understanding where to successfully meet your audience.

To learn more about audience targeting, or if you’d like to chat about maximizing your digital strategy, please get in touch with our Strategy & Planning team.

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