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Some use the words segment and audience interchangeably…I probably have from time to time…understandable because both words refer to grouping consumers by their similarities.  But I want to reinforce an important distinction.

Let’s think of a consumer segment as a grouping of consumers who have similarities that have marketing importance (for informing innovation, communications, performance, etc.) With segmentation, typically consumers are assigned to one and only one segment.

Now let’s think about audiences. These are non-exclusive collections of consumers relating to media content and advertising.  The same consumer can be in many audiences. For example, a consumer can be in a targetable third party AdTech audience of males 35-54.  They can also watch America’s Got Talent, The Blacklist, Judge Judy, etc. and be in all those TV audiences too.

So good media strategy requires bringing together two components…1) get the segment right that you want to target, 2) get the audiences right that deliver a high concentration of that segment.

Here’s the thing…Marketers can easily fail at one or both of these.

Case in point.  I was consulting with a broadcast network who had been asked to optimize ad schedules across their properties for an auto marketer’s “conquest” segment (those who own another make of car who never owned their cars.) The network optimizers worked as they should…leveraging smart TV data they profiled their shows across all their networks and reduced the target CPM!  BUT the marketer saw almost no lift!  Was it the optimizers? The creative? NO! It was the initial segment definition. Applying the theory of OBM2 and targeting Movable Middles, I could immediately see that the auto marketer was targeting Low Unresponsives and this would produce unprofitable results.  The marketer failed on challenge 1 (getting the segment right) and everyone looked bad as a result.

Another case in point. In partnership with Sequent Partners and Gerard Broussard, a marketer asked us to evaluate the “truth rate” of various third party AdTech segments of Hispanics.  The rates varied from random (truth rate equal to national average) to 2.5 times random.  So choosing the right AdTech data partner would make all the difference here.  However, it should also be noted that even the best segment had a truth rate that was lower than the audience for an in-language linear TV program on, say, Univision.  In all cases, the desired segment was a subset of the audience at varying percentages. Here, the potential for failure on challenge 2 (get the audience right) was massive.

Unpacking media strategies into segments and audiences really simplifies things. Targeting Movable Middles is a universal guide to higher ROAS.  This should always be your segment for performance.  If you want to condition the target on also being in a strategic or lifetime value segment, fine…as long as you don’t lose the power of the Movable Middle.

Deploying ad impressions to the audiences that have the highest concentrations of Movable Middles should be the core of your audience strategy.  Succeed at this and you will always outperform competitors who are not following this simple and universal gameplan.

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2 Responses to “Sharpening marketing…the difference between segments and audiences and why it matters”

  1. Great take, per usual, from Joel Rubinson.

    …and after finding that audience and the segments to target it, wouldn’t you want only the actual records that support your marketing goals?

    Truthset can find you those accurate targetable individuals in your segments of choice – finally bringing accuracy into the reach-versus-price buying equation.

    #dataaccuracy #doitright

    • joel rubinson

      thanks Kelly! YES!!!! I fully endorse Truthset’s approach to develop the highest quality audience (i.e highest concentration of desired segment). In fact, I have never seen a solution in AdTech comparable to Truthset that eliminates nearly all the waste that emanates from IDs that purport to be on target but really are not.