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Publisher demographics are more effective than data-brokered targeting

May 24, 2022 | By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN

Many marketers believe that personalized advertising in digital media is very effective at offering efficiencies and generating clicks and conversions. While advertisers generally agree that targeting is a useful tool, there is little business-to-business (B2B) research that evaluates the efficacy of advertising tactics like this. However, Nico Neumann, Catherine E. Tucker, Kumar Subramanyam, and John Marshall explore What Type of Digital Advertising is Most Effective for B2B Prospecting? in a new study.

Reaching B2B decision-makers

This research questions the best targeting method to reach B2B decision-makers using digital advertising. The authors focus on the tech sector as their desired audience: the most extensive B2B advertising vertical with an over a 30% share of the U.S. B2B digital ad spend market. The goal for the campaign is to increase branding among Information Technology Decision Makers (ITDM). Therefore, reach is a key metric for this campaign. 

Methodology and analysis

Seeking out expertise, the authors asked five different global data vendors to produce ITDM prospect lists. Two vendors provide a simple list of ITDM prospects, including user’s name, location, role, email, and cellphone information. Using their proprietary black-box methods, the other three data vendors provided a ready-made list of ITDM prospects. All five ITDM segments easily integrated into buying or data management platforms.

The core focus of the study is to examine the factors of data quality and their influence on results. The authors compared the five prospect lists to random prospecting on a digital publisher network of Time Magazine, Dotdash Meredith, Design Home, and other quality publishers to serve as a baseline for reaching the target audience. In addition, the researchers surveyed those exposed to the campaign to find out about their ITDM responsibilities, demographics, work-related characteristics, digital footprint, and content interests. This benchmarking exercise assessed the reach performance of the different ITDM targeting practices compared to the network of publishers without purchasing additional ITDM data segments.

The survey analysis examined all segments and found that over 84% of respondents have no IT product or purchase responsibilities despite the list of targeted ITDM users. Interestingly, the first two prospect lists were more effective than using black-box audience segments for identifying ITDMs via digital ads. However, even the prospect lists are not statistically better at reaching the defined target market than the digital publisher network.

The prospect-information validation using the collected surveys suggests a significant level of inaccuracy, consistent across the first two vendor lists.

Invalid data can occur if:

  • A potential error in the link to the data profile itself.
  • Data is classified incorrectly.
  • Information is outdated.  
  • Inaccuracies with machine learning or other attributions problems.

Importantly, audience information generated by publishers is less likely to be subject to these errors.

Effective tools

After evaluating the cost-effectiveness of market costs and reach, the study found that contextual and content-interest targeting is almost 9 to 10 times more efficient than specific ITDM pre-packaged prospect lists. The custom B2B lists for ITDM are no more helpful in finding the desired audience than random prospecting from a digital publisher network. Further, publishers’ demographic first-party data targeting is most efficient.

This study provides independent evidence that publishers and first-party data efforts offer more effective and cost-efficient target audience reach than the use of data brokers and third-party cookies.

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