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Audiences, context, and measurement

How to build a data-driven digital advertising strategy

The challenge and opportunity of data

Did you know that only 2% of brands1 are making the most of data-driven marketing? But companies who implement data-driven strategies are 6X more likely2 to be profitable year-over-year (YOY). Data is everywhere. In fact, modern marketers are currently being inundated with insights. But data is only noise if not properly put to use.

To better understand the value of data and learn how to apply it effectively, we focus on three core data pillars:

  • 1. Audience: Who to connect with
  • 2. Context: Where to engage them
  • 3. Measurement: How they take action

When you’re given the tools to tap into each of these data pillars effectively, not only does the path to a data-driven strategy seem less daunting, it sets up your campaigns for success. When data is used properly, the benefits are far-reaching, ranging from cost savings to fraud protection.



A strong audience strategy allows you to engage your best customers and most valuable prospects with relevant messaging—leading to increased sales and a reduction in wasted advertising.



Context allows you to make the biggest impact with your campaign by finding the best places where your message and creative are most effective.



Robust measurement gives you a 360-degree view of your campaigns to help you understand what's working, why, and what you need to optimize.

The 3 data pillars for effective digital advertising

Here’s how marketers are using the three data pillars in creative ways to drive better business outcomes.


At its core, an effective audience strategy uses consumer data with the highest potential for impact and influence. While there are many ways in which marketers segment, analyze, combine, and implement audience data, the ultimate goal is to drive smarter advertising investments with marketing campaigns that increase leads, sales, or awareness (or a combination of the three).

In today’s digital landscape, effective audience planning relies on using unique audience insights and attributes that indicate value without sacrificing scale. To do this, marketers are leveraging three practices:

  • 1. Purchase-based targeting: Creating a 360-degree view of customer segments by matching online shopping to offline purchase behaviors.
  • 2. Audience modeling: Creating new audiences by identifying prospects with similar traits and characteristics to ideal customers.
  • 3. Audience augmentation: Enhancing first-party data with third-party data to reach new audiences, discover new channels, and increase retention.

A strong audience strategy gives marketers get a deeper understanding of their ideal buyers, fans, and prospects. This enables them to tailor their campaigns—from the message and creative assets to the media plans—to impact business outcomes that matter.

The 3 data pillars for effective digital advertising


Context, or contextual intelligence, refers to the ability to analyze content to understand how people interact with it. Digital marketers use context for two main reasons:

1. Avoiding inappropriate content, nonviewable inventory, or invalid traffic

The risks of negative exposure are real; poor brand alignment can be construed by customers as a deliberate indication of your brand’ values.

Exposure or adjacency to clearly negative content may be obvious—and is certainly why many brands already apply brand safety filters. But marketers must be mindful of the environments that work—or don’t—for their brands’ particular needs.

This is the idea behind brand suitability, which refers to the need for brand safety strategies to be custom and unique to individual brands. Consider the difference in the types of content that are suitable for an alcohol brand versus a diaper brand. Content with adult themes may be appropriate for the alcohol brand, whereas that same content is off-limits for the diaper brand.

2. Actively targeting environments with relevant context

Context also can be used to find the environments—the customer mindsets—that are most compatible with a brand. This is the premise of positive context, which opens up new opportunities for brands to deliver relevant, timely experiences.

Although there are many ways to think about what the “right” context means, here is a framework to help you decide. Make sure that the content:

  • 1. Aligns with customer needs. For example, a fast-food chain serving children’s meals should actively align its advertising with content featuring tasty, easy, and fun kids’ meals, recipes, and related subject matter.
  • 2. Aligns with a persona/lifestyle. For example, a luggage company may want to align with those who are interested in adventure, overseas travel, backpacking, foreign culture, and cuisine.
  • 3. Aligns with equity-building content that reinforces the broader brand objectives. For example, if a brand is endorsed by a major celebrity, you could align your advertising with content about that individual.


The challenge with measuring digital advertising is that it’s no longer about measuring clicks, conversions, or even sales. It’s about understanding the holistic view of performance to better see how to optimize all parts of the campaign.

The following are some of the most important data points that digital advertisers should be tracking. Keep in mind that the true value of campaign performance isn’t determined by looking at individual metrics in silos, but how they all impact each other.

Standard baseline metrics

  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • Conversions

Cross-device and platform metrics

  • Desktop
  • Mobile
  • In-app
  • Video
  • Connected TV/Over-the-Top (OTT) advanced metrics
  • Invalid traffic: Distinguish whether an ad generates bots or human traffic
  • Viewability: Understand whether an ad was in view, and how long it was viewed
  • Brand safety: Monitor and track brand safety across platforms and ad formats
  • People-based reach and frequency: Understand if your message reached the most relevant audience (the segment of the population caring about that message), and how many times that audience saw your message
  • Audience: Did you reach the right people, and are they engaging with your ads?
  • Attention: Understand whether your creative delivers interactions and captures the audience’s interest
  • Return on investment (ROI): Did your online campaign impact offline sales lift?

Deploying the 3 pillars: A checklist

The next step is to learn how to apply audience, context, and measurement to a campaign. Here’s a step-by-step checklist for deploying the three data pillars.

Define your audience

The secret to winning audience plans:

  • 1. Collect all available first-party data and analyze for trends. Determine if there are patterns in the data that reveal who is purchasing, what channels they’re using, what subject matter they’re interested in, and so on.
  • 2. Augment the first-party data with high-quality third-party data to increase scale. Onboarding solutions with high match rates across specific ID types can help with this.
  • 3. Go deeper by creating behavioral profiles of your audience. Combine your audience’s online and offline behavior to develop a stronger picture of who your ideal customers and prospects are and how you can reach them.
  • 4. Tailor your brand message and creative based on the unique characteristics of your audience and the platforms and channels in which they can be reached. Balance the positioning of your brand and marketing campaign with the needs and wants of your target audience.
  • 5. Measure all relevant aspects of the campaign to determine if the advertising is resonating with your audience. You may need to optimize the channel, creative, platform, or even the audience to get the desired results for your campaign.

Connect with your audience in the right environment

Here’s how you can use context to improve reach, maintain relevance, and confidently reach your audience in the right environment.

  • 1. Begin by ensuring that your brand is protected from harmful environments at all times by activating an always-on brand safety solution. This will keep your advertising from appearing next to negative news stories or any inflammatory articles that are commonly found on the web.
  • 2. Build custom contextual segments with keywords and phrases that align with your brand or campaign so you have greater control over where your advertising is appearing online.
  • 3. Use a context partner to help you automate the building and updating of custom keyword segments in real time. This will allow you to capitalize on popular trends as they unfold and appear next to new, brand-safe content as it’s published.
  • 4. Optimize your campaign and get creative with your context strategy by expanding beyond the obvious environments and content that will serve your campaign. For example, a travel brand running a summer campaign may want to consider targeting content about swimsuits and fitness trends in addition to travel inspiration and tips.

Better manage, attribute, and measure your campaigns

Here’s how to create a robust measurement plan with your measurement partner.

1. Begin by aligning media measurement strategies with business objectives to track the right metrics and determine the true effectiveness of your campaigns. See the example below.

Business Objective Measurement strategy
Increase category awareness of product by 10%, and gain 5% of incremental audiences in 6 months.

Assessed by tracking the following metrics:

  • Sales lift
  • Online-to-offline sales impact
  • Viewability and attention

2. Identify the critical criteria that will provide a detailed overview of how your campaign and ads are performing. If in doubt, consider the baseline metrics that are commonly used for display, video, and mobile ads listed here.

Ad format Metric Description
Display and video Invalid traffic % The percentage of unfiltered impressions that were determined to be delivered to an invalid endpoint. This includes General IVT (spiders, excessive activity, and/or data center traffic categories) and sophisticated IVT (invalid proxy, automated browser, incongruous browser, invalid source, hidden ad, and/or session hijacked traffic categories).
In-view % Percentage of impressions where at least 50% of an ad was in-view for at least one continuous second. If the ad is as large or larger in area than 970x250 (for example, 300x1050 or 970x418), then it only needs to have 30% of its area n-view.
In-view time The average time in seconds that the ad was visible for users who met the requirement for a 2-second in-view impression.
Video only Audible and visible on complete (AVOC)% The percentage of valid impressions where the ad was visible and audible on completion.
Audible on... The percentage of measurable impressions where the ad was audible on a given quartile (Start, 1st, 2nd, etc.).
Video score A video ad score ranging from 0–100 to benchmark the sight, sound, and motion aspects of video. The score is based on the average percentage of the video that was audible and/or visible, amplified by the screen real estate. It is intended to assess the quality of different video ad exposures on desktop and mobile devices.
Visible on... The percentage of measurable impressions where at least 50% of the ad was visible on a given quartile (Start, 1st, 2nd, etc.).
Mobile only Universal touch rate Percentage of impressions where an ad has been touched on a mobile device.

3. Track the effectiveness of your campaigns by assessing 3 core areas:

  • Media quality: Are your ads reaching the right people and are they paying attention?
  • Brand safety: Are your ads being placed in the most relevant, suitable environments?
  • Performance and ROI: Did your ads perform?
Campaign KPI Metrics
Media quality
  • Valid and view ability rate
  • Valid impressions
  • % of ad in-view
  • Attention quality
  • % of video played in-view
Brand safety
  • Safe and unsafe %
  • Contextual reporting
  • Content categorization analysis
Performance and ROI
  • Sales lift
  • Online-to-offline sales impact

Here are 5 key questions to ask measurement providers for better outcomes

  • 1. Did I reach real people with my impressions?
  • 2. Did I reach people relevant to my campaign objectives, across the right channels?
  • 3. Did my campaign drive the outcomes I was expecting?
  • 4. How strong are your verification capabilities across brand safety, content quality, media quality, and fraud protection?
  • 5. What is your methodology?

The 2020/21 trends and themes in data

The opportunity in digital advertising continues to rise. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) reported that in the first half of 2018, digital ad spending hit a record-breaking $49.5 billion, which was a 23% year-over-year increase.

But what are the key trends driving the current climate and influencing how advertisers go to market? Where are the opportunities for growth? And how can marketers use audience, context, and measurement to capitalize and cover all the bases?

The need for greater transparency and accountability

It cannot be denied that there’s a lot of pressure bearing down on the digital advertising space. With new regulations popping up, various headlines about data collection practices, and other types of less savory attention, it’s more important than ever to ensure that marketers have a firm grip on their data and processes.

In addition, statistics show that up to $19 billion has been lost to ad fraud, including the DrainerBot operation.

The 3 data pillars for effective digital advertising
Source: 3

It’s essential that advertisers partner with data providers they can trust, who can provide them with a holistic and safe solution for data management and campaign measurement.

The evolution of TV advertising

In the era of cord-cutting, TV advertising (PDF) is changing. It’s still a behemoth—but with smartphones, streaming services, and internet-enabled television devices, for the first time ever, digital will surpass TV ad spend in 2019.4

As TV advertising evolves with the rise of digital, advertisers will be able to:

  • Reach the right consumers on every screen—linear, addressable, and connected TV
  • Extend campaigns to reach across both digital and TV
  • Ensure brand safety, suitability, and relevance across a publisher’s video advertising inventory in an increasingly programmatic landscape with contextual intelligence
  • Measure the business impact of TV/video campaigns and provide insights to inform optimizations

The streamlining of these channels is an exciting thought for any advertiser who feels pulled in many different directions.

Digital audio

Radio isn’t dead. In fact, with the impressive rise of digital audio, it is far from it. Check out these stats.

  • Digital audio was expected to exceed 190 million listeners in 2019, up 20% in 5 years5
  • Of all music consumed, almost half is streamed6
  • 124 million people listened to podcasts in 2018, up 12 million YOY7
  • Streaming music accounts for 75% of U.S. music revenue8

This meteoric growth is an amazing opportunity for marketers. Some creative ways in which stakeholders are getting in the digital audio game include the following.

  • Playlist curation: In an effort to help advertisers reach more millennials on their platform, Spotify undertook an effort to understand people through music, pinpointing what they call “key moments.” Each moment is targeted at millennials during certain everyday activities they engage in, such as chilling or driving. They hone in on details, such as how users are listening (platform), what time of day to reach them, and ideas for music genres.
  • Personalized ad messaging: Leveraging the cult-like relationships many podcast listeners have with their favorite shows, brands have been giving hosts creative reign to read the ad copy how they prefer, inject personality, and even ad-lib their own experiences. This gives the promotion a more genuine feel, increasing the chance that listeners will pay attention. There’s no doubt that marketers who build digital audio into their future advertising budgets will see a payoff.


  • 1. Boston Consulting Group - Google, Data Driven Marketing Assessment, 2017
  • 2. Forbes Insights, Data Driven and Digitally Savvy: The Rise of the New Marketing Organization, 2015
  • 3. Pixalate, Q3 2018 Ad Fraud Update, 2018
  • 4. eMarketer, US Digital Ad Spending Will Surpass Traditional in 2019, 2019
  • 5. IAB, A Digital Audio Buyer’s Guide — an Overview and Resource for Planning and Buying Digital Audio Advertising
  • 6. Neilsen, Music 360 - 2017 Highlights
  • 7. NPR & Edison Research, The Smart Audio Report, 2018
  • 8. RIAA, 2018 Year-End Music Industry Revenue Report, 2018