7 Product Managers Share Top Targeting Tactics

Jane O'Hara
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With third-party cookies crumbling and data privacy restrictions on the rise, publishers are left wondering which ad targeting tactics respect their users’ privacy while generating revenue too.

Do tactics like behavioral targeting comply with privacy laws like the GDPR and CCPA — or should you double-down on contextual targeting? How might users’ browser preferences impact your ability to target by interest, location, and more?

Navigating these targeting conundrums can be tricky, so we asked seven product management pros in our Ad.Product community the same question:

“What targeting features should publishers build to attract advertisers and boost ad revenue?”


Mike Chowla, PubMatic
Mike is the Senior Director of Product Management at PubMatic, a digital advertising technology company empowering app developers and publishers to maximize their programmatic advertising

“Targeting features in a platform are important but what really makes them work is the quality and reach of the dataset behind them. If the data has low accuracy, then much of the value is lost. If the reach of the data is too small, then buys won't scale up.

The ability to ingest first-party data and activate audiences is the key feature both publishers and buyers should look for. For publishers, leveraging their first-party data enables them to package their inventory in ways that make it more valuable to buyers. For buyers, better campaign performance is often possible by targeting either their own first-party data or publisher's first-party data.”


Larry Karnowski, Adzerk
Larry is the Principal Product Manager at Adzerk, an API platform that enables brands to build custom ad servers

“As a publisher, these are the absolute must-have targeting features you will need:

  • Targeting by country
  • Targeting by keyword

Every company, no matter what, needs to be able to ‘target based on the country of the ad viewer’ if only to choose in which language to present their ad creative. Further, it's important to be aware of the potentially different data privacy regulations by country (like EU’s GDPR), and to address that appropriately, as most advertisers want campaigns to run in a specific market.

Most publishers will also want to ‘target by keyword’ at the very least to be aware of brand safety concerns. Keywords are also a very open and easily adaptable system. Many of the other targeting features can at least be approximated by clever use of keyword targeting.

There are also a few more “arguable must-have” targeting features that are super useful to almost everyone:

  • By city or region
  • By device form factor: handheld, tablet, or desktop
  • By user interest
  • By day of week and/or time of day
  • Based on referring URLs

As your advertisers’ sophistication grows (along with their ability to pay higher CPMs) their needs and expectations grow as well. Advertisers today expect at least a minimum of these targeting options.”


Panagiotis Giannakouras, Project Agora
Panagiotis is a Product Director at Project Agora, a fully automated solution that empowers top local publishers and retailers in EMEA to get the maximum value out of their visitors

“Over the past years, online targeting techniques have been put on a strain by developments in legal and technological areas, most notably with the introduction of GDPR and CCPA as well as Chrome’s decision to deplete third-party cookies. These challenges, while upsetting the ecosystem, also serve as an opportunity for a health check in an area that has been characterized by a lot of hype and lack of control.

While the online ad targeting landscape will see many developments in the months to come, I believe that the key trends are:

  • In the short-medium term, targeting features incorporating contextual intelligence will see a rise. While not a “new” feature, contextual targeting has evolved considerably in the age of Big Data and AI, thus representing a privacy-friendly, scalable and effective targeting technique for advertisers.
  • Over the long-term, targeting features incorporating first-party, intent data will remain the undisputed leader. The exact “how” is yet to be determined in the months to come, given also the evolution of the entire online ad tech industry in the post-cookie world.

Last but not least, regardless of the targeting features deployed, advertisers still ultimately want to see a change in the behavior of the people they are targeting, whether this is increased sales and/or uplift in consumer perceptions towards their brands. That being said, one must not forget: first, that targeting should serve the business strategy – not vice versa, and second, that performance either direct (i.e., sales) or indirect (i.e., engagement with an ad) is the ultimate criterion for success.”


Ian Orekondy, AdComplyRx
Ian is the Head of Product, CEO, and founder of AdComplyRx, a digital media insights and operations platform built specifically for healthcare and pharmaceutical companies and their agencies

“From the perspective of the prescription pharma vertical, targeting strategies that are highly attractive to advertisers and that can help drive sales and boost revenue are HCP-targeting (healthcare professional targeting) as well as targeting based on patient prescription data.

Two partners in those spaces that can help identify these segments among your target audience are MedData Group for HCP-targeting and Crossix for prescription data. Both are well versed in patient privacy.

Another area to dig into is your site's search inventory. If you have significant "100% type-in" search pageviews — especially around certain health symptoms, conditions, treatments, or brands — that inventory is much more valuable than artificial search inventory (aka, display-to-search that generates a search results page automatically after a non-search user action like an ad link click.).

Genuine search activity and ad clicks are much more highly engaged on advertisers' websites, so optimizing your search box placement and prominence can drive more type-in search volume and generate higher quality ad clicks that advertisers are more willing to pay a premium for.">


Andy Sharkey, CafeMedia
Andy is the Director of Product Management at CafeMedia, a digital media company that supports nearly 2,000 high-quality content creators

"Today, marketers use third-party data to target users across domains. As Chrome shifts away from allowing third-party cookies, marketers are giving publisher first-party data a second look.

While the value proposition of publisher first-party data is beginning to increase, the challenges for the marketer to target it remain the same. Marketers will need to educate themselves on what data each individual publisher can offer (not all data is valued the same), and then create new campaigns targeting those opportunities. That will create new operational work for both publishers and marketers alike, and there are lots of unknowns on the road to scaling that sort of ecosystem.

What we do know is those publishers that can measure and make targetable consumer intent at scale, and have technology to manage the process, stand to be beneficiaries from these trends."


Nishanth Kadiyala, AT&T
Nishanth is a Lead Product Manager for AT&T, where he’s responsible for the vision and delivery of new, streamlined experiences on att.com. Views presented here are his own.

"Publishers juggle between several campaigns on a weekly basis and setup time can be a huge bottleneck for most of them. That's why they tend to focus on the more tried and tested targeting options based on geography, demographics, or keywords. However, it is critical for publishers to equip themselves with niche targeting capabilities their tool offers. Some of the less popular options that I can think of are daypart, system info, apps, behavior, domain, and frequency.

Here a couple of examples of how publisher can optimize their ad campaigns for a higher ROI:

  • Once you have launched a campaign for a specific demographic, monitor the performance of your campaign by the time of the day for the next week. If you see patterns where 60-80% of your traffic comes during certain times of the day, then daypart can help you run your ads in those specific time slots.
  • Several studies have shown that users get blind to repetitive ads. And it is possible that you are over targeting certain users/segments. So, frequency allows you to control how many times a user can see an ad in a given time frame. Run some AB tests and figure out your sweet spot.

These are just a few ideas and as you can see there is a bit of art and science to these ideas. At the end of the day, do your own diligence to understand the needs of your company. Are your campaigns worth optimizing? Is your goal brand awareness vs generating instant revenue? What's more important: acquisition vs retention?"


Alexei Moltchan, LiveIntent
Alexei is the Senior Product Manager at LiveIntent, a people-based marketing technology platform changing the way brands and publishers think about email

“In today's world the most important targeting for marketers will be audience targeting. With the recent announcements in the industry (e.g., the upcoming sunset of third-party cookies) and emerging external forces (such as COVID-19), it is more crucial than ever for advertisers to build a strategy to reach the right audiences in the right environments.

Luckily, a number of identity players have emerged who can help to mitigate all the aforementioned negative effects and deliver the message to the right consumer. DSPs should really focus on the audience addressability targeting through partnerships with identity providers.”

Want more targeting tactics?

We’ve written several articles that offer additional insights on ad targeting:

What tips can you offer?

We’d love to hear which targeting features you’ve found most effective. Click the link to share your advice and experiences with the Ad.Product community on LinkedIn.

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Jane O'Hara

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