In the pre–digital media world, “target audience” described the age/gender population group that most likely would buy a brand and respond to a campaign. “Segment“ was a more sophisticated way to describe different consumer groups with different brand-related behaviors and motivations. But today, marketers “buy audiences” and direct ads to “target segments” all based on what they are told are data-driven target segments—hundreds of thousands of highly relevant, commercially available demographic and behavioral digital target segments from providers such as Experian, Acxiom, Epsilon, and others.
Targeting based on very specific consumer characteristics and behavior has secured a rock-solid place in digital advertising planning and buying, and the practice soon will play a large role in advanced television advertising. The promise of advanced advertising targeting in television is both exciting and scary, though: So far in digital, the practice has been dogged by quality problems associated with the accuracy and coverage of these data-driven target segments. Overclaiming with little substantiation of accuracy rates is common across the landscape. Both target segment accuracy and coverage impact advertising performance and a brand’s return on investment (Broussard, 2016).