The Power of Personalization without Prying

Customer Persona and User Behavior Concept stock illustration

By Steve Dunlop, CEO, A Million Ads

The ad tech industry is one of the hottest places to be, and is set to grow from $400+ billion in 2022 to $1 trillion in 2030. When it comes to the key driver for value, the answer is simple, personalized ads. Ad personalization plays an important role in our lives and the economy — it helps brands efficiently use their advertising budget, helping to promote relevant content and reducing irritation from repetitive advertising. When advertising improves, so too does the company’s revenue. In turn, this creates jobs and allows companies to continue innovating.

Ultimately, personalization is a vital component of modern marketing, but it faces challenges. There’s pushback, not just from privacy-wary consumers and regulators but also from tech brands eager to protect their customers. Apple’s App Targeting Transparency is a good example.  Faced with these headwinds, the industry needs to rethink its approach to profiling and targeting. The ad tech industry must balance its own needs with the privacy and comfort of consumers.

As the audio digital advertising space shows, delivering effective and impactful advertisements without the need for hyper-granular demographic profiling and tracking is possible. Within the conventional digital advertising technology industry, profiles are often based on activity beyond the website where an advertisement appears. For example, you could browse for a new Instant Pot on Amazon and, when you open Facebook, see dozens of adverts for slow cookers.

This isn’t possible within the audio space as most audio apps don’t allow for the same level of cross-application or cross-browser tracking. And so, audio ad tech providers must look elsewhere. Audio-based ad tech firms know how to deliver effective, contextual, and personalized advertisements with limited data points. Innovation and creativity have driven the industry to develop a playbook for delivering relevant ads that respect consumers’ privacy.

Here are a few points to keep in mind when creating personalized experiences without prying.

Time Matters

Context is critical. It can make or break a marketing campaign. It’s the secret ingredient that determines your success. It doesn’t matter how clever or pithy an advertisement, if you get the timing wrong, your effort is for naught.

Fortunately, advertisers can determine when a person downloads a podcast or engages with an audio streaming service, and they can use this information to their advantage, delivering context-driven advertisements at the right time.

A fast food chain may choose to deliver breakfast-themed commercials during the early morning hours, when bleary-eyed commuters piled into cars and subway trains and are most in need of caffeinated sustenance. As the day progresses, they would logically serve ads for their lunch and dinner offerings.

Similarly, a company that primarily targets commuters may choose to target their advertisements during the working week, giving them the most bang for their buck. When it comes to choosing the right dynamic creative strategy, when matters just as much as who you are speaking to.

Location, Location, Location

When it comes to obtaining listener location insights, advancements in technology have enabled advertisers to have a range of tools at their disposal, and it’s no different for the audio category. What’s arguably more interesting is how advertisers can use this data to create meaningful, effective advertisements that respect the privacy of audiences.

On a really basic level, location data allows dynamic creative advertisers to customize the content pushed towards listeners based on where they are at a given time. This works on both regional and national levels.

The national level is obvious. Advertisers don’t want to waste their budget marketing to consumers in territories where they aren’t present. On a fundamental level, location data can avoid waste and set a floor for efficiency. It’s when we talk about more precise levels of targeting that things get interesting. Leveraging location insights, you can deliver highly-relevant programmatic ads that speak to the consumer at that particular moment.

If a user engages with a podcast or streaming service from an airport, for example, an advertiser might choose to serve adverts that are generally relevant to travelers. Things like mobile roaming plans, travel insurance, and so on. Or, if they can infer the specific airport they’re in and deliver content specific to that particular location: like an airport restaurant, duty-free store, or lounge.

This example is just one example of how dynamic creative advertising can work in the audio world. There are countless others. If a listener connects from the road, you can use their general location data to serve adverts that may be relevant in the hours to come — like gas stations, roadside restaurants, or (if they’re particularly unlucky) towing companies.

It’s worth remembering that the efficacy of location-based dynamic creative ads isn’t reliant on the profile data of a single user. We don’t need to understand who the listener is to deliver something that’s relevant in that particular moment.

If we return to the airport example, the location-driven ad will be just as relevant to everyone else in the same terminal.

Location data isn’t perfect. But it doesn’t need to be. You don’t need the precise latitude and longitude of your audience for an advertisement to be relevant. If you can position them within a given city, country, or airport, that’s often good enough.

Understanding the Consumer’s Mindset

You can tell a lot about someone’s interests by the content they consume. Someone who subscribes to a technology podcast likely has an interest in technology. Listeners of the NFL Players Podcast are inevitably sports enthusiasts.

It’s not hard to determine what category a piece of audio content falls under. Audio creators make this easy for advertisers by tagging their shows, or through the metadata descriptions they attach to each episode. With the final context clue of genre, advertisers can deliver relevant dynamic content without the need for targeting data.

The most successful advertisements are the helpful ones—those that speak to the needs or interests of an audience.  As the audio space shows, you don’t need hyper-precise targeting data to deliver effective dynamic creative ads. You can achieve the same results simply by looking for context clues.

Relevance without Targeting

While headlines and pushback from regulators and tech giants highlights potential challenges ahead, my view is that we shouldn’t approach this with a sense of dread, but rather, recognize the incredible opportunity that lies before us.

The nascent audio advertising industry shows that it’s possible to achieve high levels of relevance without intruding on the privacy of users. This segment of the digital marketing economy doesn’t need profiles to deliver value for consumers and advertisers alike.

Using a few simple generic attributes like time, location, and genre, it’s possible to deliver dynamic and personalized content that aligns with a listener’s interests and immediate circumstances. The easier we make it for consumers to hear something and immediately make a purchase the more we’ll see digital audio advertising boom. After all, consumers give you their greatest attention when listening. It’s the theater of the mind – what could be more powerful?