TrueView audience engagement: Paid strategies to find fans and reduce waste

All advertisers claim to do A/B testing and segmentation on their target audiences, but few do it right. YouTube and its TrueView video ad formats have been built to provide advertisers with unique insight into their audiences that most video-focused content marketing cannot accomplish. The problem is, most advertisers don’t take advantage of it. Instead, they end up wasting thousands of dollars on unengaged viewers.

A key differentiator for TrueView is its ability to qualify an audience based on users’ continued engagement with a brand or channel. Instead of focusing on video completion rates, which don’t provide real insight into engagement, advertisers can see how users engage with their TrueView ads and learn about what keeps them interested.

We’ve all seen the bevy of RFPs on the coveted millennial audience. As a whole, millennials are the top audience segment that most advertisers want to reach. However, inside of this broad age demographic is a wealth of unique audience segments of which most TrueView campaigns don’t take advantage. Not all millennials are alike, and they don’t all respond to your advertising the same way.

Granted, the targeting options available for TrueView are continually evolving, but they provide advertisers with several precise audience segments on which to focus delivery. When using Google’s audience targeting, advertisers can tailor their ad delivery to users based on who they are, what their interests are, what they are searching, and how they have interacted with your business.

As an example, with custom affinity audiences, advertisers can focus delivery on users who have visited a particular website, downloaded a specific application, or even types of places they might be interested in visiting. Imagine you’re a new sports television network trying to reach potential viewers. With custom affinity audiences, you can build out targeting that includes competitor websites, mobile applications of streaming services and fantasy sports, or even the locations of where your audience’s favorite teams play.

Media buyers understand that the granularity of your targeting has a direct impact on your ability to optimize and segment audiences and is often more critical than the targeting tactic sourcing itself. The TrueView platform offers many targeting tactics to reach precise segments of audiences such as custom affinity audiences, but not all are equal.

When focused on user-initiated actions, keyword-based targeting often drastically outperforms tactics, such as placement and topic-based targeting. It allows us to be more precise and deliver media more efficiently and effectively. To validate this, my team reviewed all of the campaigns we ran since 2018 and organized targeting types based on whether they are placement-based targeting or keyword-based targeting.

What we found was that with discovery ads (user-initiated view), keywords were about 30% more efficient than placements when optimizing toward clicks and earned views and 70% more efficient when optimizing toward earned subscribers. Even more compelling is the positive influence of keywords with in-stream ads (forced view). Keywords were at least 50% more effective than placements when optimizing for clicks, and about 80% more efficient when optimizing for earned views and earned subscribers.

At a high level, advertisers know how to A/B test and segment audiences, but they are often not asking how granular they can get. The granularity of targeting has a direct impact on your ability to learn from users and build a loyal audience. Proactively using keyword targeting gives advertisers useful insights into the performance of their campaigns and adjust their strategies based on real-time performance trends.

Earned media metrics attributed to paid media activity, such as earned views, subscribers, and playlist adds, help advertisers learn what keeps their audience engaged in a way video completion rates could never do. By optimizing for these user-initiated actions rather than passive metrics like video completion rates, advertisers can identify which users are actively interested in seeing more content similar to that in the advertisement (think fans, not just viewers). While advertisers can also leverage Brand Lift Studies to further understand audience quality and response, there are many limitations when relying solely on a study to detail what is working and what is not (such as building statistically significant data on multiple targets).

We can all deliver on-target impressions or views, but few campaigns learn from and build an engaged audience. Employing all of the TrueView features available to us and setting the right KPIs, such as earned paid media metrics instead of video completion rates, are vital to maximizing your ability to learn from and build an audience on YouTube.

Our most powerful tool is to be able to iterate our messaging and targeting so that we can align it to make an impact, build engaged and interested audiences, and reduce media waste. The tools are already there; advertisers simply need to use them.

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