Beyond 3rd Party Data: More Ways to Target Audiences

July 12, 2019

Dominic Johnson

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Thinking beyond 3rd party: more ways to target your audiences

The biggest benefit of online advertising? That’s easy, the data. Unlike its traditional counterparts, online advertising allows advertisers to use a wide variety of data sets to reach a specified audience. One of the most popular data sets is third-party data; it’s widely used by brands everywhere. Sometimes third-party data becomes the be-all and end-all of an advertising campaign’s targeting strategy – it shouldn’t be. Fully understanding all the targeting opportunities will not just make advertisers smarter, but make campaigns better. Here’s how.

Don’t Over-Rely On Third Party Behavioral Data

Advertisers use various forms of data to reach their target audiences, and one of the most popular is behavioral data from third-party data companies. While first-party data is something a brand owns (think customer email addresses), third-party data comes from big name companies like Oracle or Nielsen. This data is made of mostly online content consumption habits (like which articles users are reading or what they are searching for online). Not surprisingly, it is widely used because it is effective, easy for advertisers to access, and easy to buy. For example, if Wilson wants to target tennis players with a new racquet, they can simply select Oracle’s “Sports > Tennis and Racquet Sports” audience segment from a Data Management Platform.

But many advertisers stop there. While third-party behavioral data is a strong component to any campaign, relying on that alone likely leaves many viable targeting options on the table. Below are some of the targeting tactics that advertisers should not forget.

Targeting Opportunities – Going Beyond Online – Only Behavior


While many third-party data segments are built based on online behavior, more are being created with offline behavior that is then connected across devices.

  • Purchase Data: What someone buys is oftentimes a strong indicator of who they are. Again with the tennis example, what if the user was a tennis fan who hadn’t picked up a racquet in years? Wilson could find a more qualified target by finding someone who had recently purchased tennis balls or shoes. Purchase data is often included in third-party data segments, like Nielsen Catalina.
  • Location (geo-farming): Most advertisers are familiar with location data for geo-fencing, where you only serve ads to people when they are in a certain radius, zip code, city, etc. What isn’t utilized as frequently is geo-farming, the tactic of identifying where someone has been recently. For example, say you are trying to reach dentists and dental hygienists. Advertisers can get creative with targeting tactics by using geo-farming to look for people who visit dentist offices frequently. If someone goes to a dentist’s office a few times a year, they’re a patient. But if someone visits that dentist office a few times a week, they’re more likely the dentist.


While utilizing all this data can be appealing, it isn’t perfect. With the introduction of GDPR in Europe or the CCPA in California, the use of data targeting in the industry may be changing. What does this mean for marketers? Don’t forget about good, old-fashioned contextual relevancy.

  • Site Specific: Trying to reach small business owners and entrepreneurs: be on Simple enough, right? And for a home improvement company, being on sites like or would be a good investment.
  • Contextual Keywords: Using a list of keywords for targeting can be a powerful way to get banners/ads on specific content. It is as simple as it sounds. If consumers are reading content about grocery home delivery services like Instacart or Shipt, a brand with a home delivery offering of its own would be wise to reach users while they are in that mindset. This type of contextual targeting helps reach beyond site-specific buys, knowing that the content you’re looking to surround is available on more than just a few extra-relevant sites.


Unfortunately, not all brands have a big enough email list from which to build a viable audience segment. And things like home addresses can be even less viable for campaigns. But there is one frequently-used targeting tactic that is technically first-party data, though it is not often thought of as such:

  • Site Retargeting: A retargeting pool is technically first-party data because those users have visited a specific website. Therefore, this is an audience that only that website owner can use, and third-party data companies cannot use this data for building out their segments. Utilize it!

Know All The Targeting Options Before Launch

When it comes to reaching a specific audience, it’s crucial to leave no stone unturned. With a myriad of devices, sites, apps and services that every consumer uses on a daily basis, finding the target audience when they are most ready to act is a difficult proposition. By utilizing as many strategic and logical targeting tactics as possible, advertisers will increase their odds of audiences connecting their brand as a solution to their problem.

Image Source: Unsplash

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