The Power of Targeted Ads & How to Take Advantage of Them


You were scrolling aimlessly through Instagram when you spotted it: An uncannily accurate ad featuring the very same Espresso machine that you had considered buying only last week.

Welcome to the world of targeted advertising, where companies leverage Big Data to serve specially tailored ads to potential leads based on their browsing activity, interests and even their personality type.

In this guide, we’ll be taking a closer look at the mechanics behind the various types of targeted ads, and explain why you need to consider adding them to your marketing arsenal.

Let’s dive straight in:


Targeted advertising has existed in the offline world for decades: Business owners have been using well-placed magazine ads and calculated leafleting campaigns since at least the mid-1800s.

Modern targeted ads work on the same principle, but these days, they’re a whole lot more sophisticated:


The term “Targeted Ad” is a catch-all description for any kind of marketing campaign that uses known information about a potential customer or lead, in order to more effectively persuade them to purchase a product or service.

The tactics employed by modern ad platforms are often extremely sophisticated, but they’ll still typically fall into one or more of the following categories:


One of the oldest and most prolific types of targeted ad involves the use of cookies – small files that store information on your computer about the sites you’ve browsed, or indeed the products you’ve considered purchasing.

Armed with this information, it’s possible for business owners to employ a third-party service to display highly specific ads to a potential lead, with the intention of gently nudging them back to an abandoned shopping cart, or to simply suggest other products relevant to their past browsing history.


The algorithms employed by today’s search engines are extremely complex, with Google in particular able to analyse search terms and user habits with extreme precision, in order to serve up the most relevant content in search results.

Targeted ads on search engines like Google are most often referred to as Pay-Per-Click or PPC for short. Pay per click campaigns involve bidding on valuable keywords or phrases in order to get to the top of search results.


Targeted ads on social media platforms work in much the same way as the two examples previously mentioned. However, the sheer volume of data available means that it’s possible to build ultra-targeted campaigns that are able to serve ads to specific ages, genders, political persecutions and personal preferences.


The sophistication and scale of modern advertising platforms are huge. For example, if you’d been browsing for that Espresso machine on a coffee-related website, you might begin to see highly targeted ads for the same appliance appearing on Facebook or Instagram for example.

This particular tactic is actually known as “Retargeting”, but it all falls under the umbrella of “Targeted Advertising”.


The internet of 2021 is a crowded place to do business. Whether your niche is real estate or personal training, competition is fierce and leads are hard to win.

Whilst it’s tempting to dabble with every type of marketing discipline from SEO campaigns to social media outreach, our best advice is to always master one technique at a time.

Getting started with target advertising can seem daunting, but it does offer significant advantages over the other methods:


The vast bulk of prospective customers will turn out to be a bad match for your product or service. That’s just a fact of life. Good marketers understand this, and employ sales funnels to warm up potential clients and quickly reject those leads that will never be interested in the product.

Targeted advertising allows business owners to filter for a very specific type of person or “Buyer Persona” early on in the sales process, increasing the number of warm leads exponentially.

It’s much easier to write sales copy and compelling product descriptions if you know exactly who you’re selling to. This is an area where targeted ads excel.


If you’ve ever tried offline advertising techniques like magazine ads or mailshots, you’ll know how tricky it is to gauge a campaign’s effectiveness. The results of online strategies such as SEO and Content Marketing can be just as difficult to quantify.

In contrast, targeted ads are ruthlessly efficient: You’ll never go over budget, and you’ll have access to a vast data resource, allowing you to tweak your campaigns to be devastatingly effective.

Just how effective?

On long-running campaigns, the best marketing managers are able to give an exact acquisition cost for each and every lead they generate, effectively allowing business owners to generate sales as if “turning on a hosepipe”


Effective SEO campaigns can take months to achieve results, and content marketing campaigns can rapidly burn through your marketing budget before generating a single lead.

Targeted advertising is much faster in this regard and by extension a whole lot cheaper, especially as it’s so much easier to tweak a campaign’s performance to improve conversion rates on-the-fly.


With content marketing especially, it’s extremely tricky (read: impossible!) to reach out to a potential lead who has abandoned a blog post or social media page.

They lose interest, you lose the sale.

Targeted advertising allows business owners to re-engage with these lost leads, gently nudging them back to abandoned shopping carts or sales funnels.

Retargeting can be extremely effective: The chances of hooking a new customer are often in the region of 5-25%, whereas retargeting (if done properly) can bring anywhere up to 40% of lost leads back into your funnel.


Whether you’re advertising on Facebook, Instagram or even LinkedIn, there are a few tried and tested practices that will yield the best results from your targeted ad campaigns.

Here are some of the most important:


What are you trying to achieve with the ad campaign?

Driving traffic to a Facebook page?

Promoting a local business in Sydney?

Sending potential leads to a sales page?

Those are all valid reasons for starting a targeted ad campaign. Just don’t try and achieve them all at once, or worse, simply send traffic to the homepage of your website without a specific outcome in mind.


The whole point of targeted ad campaigns is that they allow business owners to filter out the people that are unlikely to become future customers. It’s really important to draw up an ideal “Buyer Persona” for your potential leads, in order to attract the perfect customer.

With that being said, if your ads are too targeted, then you’ll risk alienating large chunks of your potential audience, and in the case of hyper-specific geographic targeting, you might find that you have almost zero audiences left to engage with!


Everyone seems to intuitively know that split testing is important, but few people ever master the skill.

Running parallel advertising campaigns with different demographics can give valuable insights into how to adjust your ads for maximum ROI. Once you’ve uncovered the parameters that could be improved, be careful to adjust them one at a time and in very gradual increments.

Successful ad campaigns are born out of thoughtful, tactical decisions, and should never rely on knee-jerk changes or gambling.


We created this targeted advertising overview to take away some of the mystery surrounding the topic, hopefully alleviating some of your fears that targeted ads are either unnecessarily complex or prohibitively expensive.

If our guide has piqued your interest and you’d like more information, speak to one of our experts!


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