Consumer packaged goods (CPG) marketers face two particularly testing challenges today, in the shape of pressure to ever more efficiently drive brand growth in a slowing economy, and markets that are constantly shifting as a result of changes in the retail environment.

Precision marketing is vaunted as a tool to help marketers deal with these challenges. It promises an improved capability of reaching audiences that are most responsive to advertising, wherever they are, and hence reducing the number of messages wasted in a campaign.

The claims made for precision marketing have long been in the sights of Byron Sharp and his colleagues at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science. In a recent paper, they claim that one of the mistakes made by big brands in recent years is "allocating too much advertising expenditure to overly targeted new digital media with unproven abilities to reach consumers and build mental availability". This comment implies a big question that the paper doesn't answer, but which is of critical importance to CPG marketers: how much targeted advertising is too much?