Not Everyone Is Your Best Friend

exterior shot of a person holding their hand up to hide their face

Differentiate your strategy for loyal customers and everyone else.

Over the last several years marketers have come to depend on audience-led strategies as a means for identifying their consumers, targeting their advertising, managing frequency and measuring marketing success. Most every marketer began to collect (and sometimes hoard) data signals from consumers under the premise of creating the more-personalized ad experiences consumers were said to want.

Turns out, as an industry, we may have overplayed the personalization hand. What began as a slightly unnerving experience of having shoes follow you all over the Internet has become, for many consumers, a wholesale sense that brands and platforms have uncanny and unwelcome foresight into exactly what we’re thinking and talking about.

No wonder, according to a recent study from The Conference Board and Nielsen, 57% of consumers say they would reject personalized ads in favor of protecting their online data privacy (source: eMarketer, Nov. 2020). GDPR was the first shot across the bow—quickly followed by CCPA and with iOS 14.5 and Google’s coming deprecation of third-party cookies, it’s time for even the most-reluctant marketers to start thinking hard about what really qualifies as opt-in data and how to use that data in advertising.

As an industry, we convinced ourselves that what was good for measurement and ROI was also what people wanted. But consumers are clearly communicating that it’s all too much. All day long brands desperately clamor for attention by begging people to love them, appreciate them, register with them, like them, share them, engage with them and buy from them. It’s not surprising that a lot of consumers are now looking for some kind of regulatory intervention to keep us at arm’s length. As a group, we’ve gotten a little needy. How do we shift this dynamic?

I would suggest that a singular focus on first-party relationships misses a huge opportunity to be more sensitive and authentic. It’s time for brands to truly bifurcate their strategies between loyalists and mass, and treat each group with a unique communications strategy calibrated to the amount of attention and connection consumers want to give. By acknowledging core differences between advertising to close friends versus acquaintances, and building creative assets and media plans calibrated to those differences, brands can build experiences that match the level of personalization to the depth of the relationship.

How can marketers begin to think about communicating when a relationship is shallow or new? Part of the answer lies in thinking about doing more with privacy-compliant data, taking advantage of all the signals available in an advertising moment without relying on PII. Understanding the impression, the environment and the amount of consumer attention can help you match the right message to the right moment and campaign goal. This approach offers advertisers a way to get acquainted with new customers, rediscover those who’ve lapsed and engage in conversations with the right amount of social distance.

We might make a lot of good friends over time. We might also make some casual acquaintances who buy and then move on. With the right data and a blended strategy that calibrates for and distinguishes between close friends, acquaintances and strangers, marketers can wisely invest their media dollars, find incremental reach and grow sales in a sustainable and respectful way.

Yieldmo is an IHAF supplier member who offers programmatic media solutions that drive optimal performance. To learn more about how they might partner with your team, follow them on LinkedIn and Twitter or go to

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