Ad Targeting: Getting the Basics Right is More Important Than Ever + Bonus Quiz

What came first: the ad or the target? The answer should be the targeting, but if you don’t know about your ad content, you can’t properly create your audience targeting strategy, and pretty soon you’ll find yourself in an another existential programmatic crisis.

Getting the basics of ad targeting right is in fact the most important thing programmatic marketers should be thinking about as they go into launching campaigns. Our CEO, Marc Poirier, sat down with our Director of Client Services, Kent Julien, to talk about getting the ad targeting basics right, blending magic with science, and even some top secrets from our trading team. And if we’re talking alliteration, we can’t wait to tell you all about our top ad targeting tips for traders in twenty-twenty-three below, followed by our exciting bonus quiz! Let’s get into it.

Top Three Takeaways From This Article:

  • KPIs drive targeting, and navigating the ad tech jungle to recommend the right targeting strategies requires deep industry knowledge
  • CTV is the most popular channel programmatic marketers should focus on in terms of getting their targeting basics polished and up to par
  • Programmatic marketers can drive both top and bottom-funnel actions, especially by creating and moving audiences across channels.

Getting Ad Targeting Right From the Get-Go

Ad targeting techniques and strategies are driven by the goal of the campaign. Programmatic campaign managers need to be on top of the entire programmatic landscape, including partners, their datasets, the best DSPs and more, in order to align their client’s goals with the entire sphere of possibility in programmatic.

Without a deep understanding of all the adtech that’s out there, traders won’t be able to get the right message to the right person at the right time and meet campaign objectives. Agencies who recommend programmatic as part of a client’s marketing mix should understand how targeting changes based on the campaign goal.

Programmatic targeting can be broad and reach the client’s audience when they’re driving down the highway or at a sports event if the campaign is focused on brand awareness. Similarly, if the client wants their agency to run a ROAS campaign or an eCommerce campaign, then programmatic has to help deliver a return on investment.

In this case, “you need to know how to target…and that’s the magic of programmatic” says Kent. He’s talking about how programmatic can drive both top and bottom-funnel KPIs with the right “blend of science and magic.”

At the end of the day, if performance isn’t there, Kent explains that we’re basically all out of a job. We paused to laugh here, but seriously, vetting all top-tier partners, vendors and datasets to be able to understand, recommend and speak to them makes all the difference at the onset of strategy development.

Combining the landscape of programmatic possibility with the right targeting strategy for the desired KPI can be complex, and that’s just the basics. Here’s what we mean by “the landscape of programmatic possibility.” This is what we’re dealing with:

Mastering CTV Targeting is Essential in 2023

If you’re working in programmatic, and you take one thing away from this post, it’s that you NEED to understand how to do better targeting on connected TV (CTV).

Even though Kent denies it, CTV truly has become the silver bullet for advertisers amongst an increasing population of cable cutters and streamers. “Advertisers are putting dollars where the eyeballs are,” Kent says, “and the dollars are shifting.”

Admittedly, we have been talking about CTV’s growth for ages now, but following the pandemic, streaming is even more popular than ever and it’s only going to continue as younger generations start to consume more.

“CTV offers brands and their agencies a chance to get away from the click”

CTV offers brands and their agencies a chance to get away from the click and to look at metrics like how people are viewing ads, and how long they’re viewing them for, or to even put QR codes to capture conversions on screen. What’s more is that this gives brands the power to create audiences from these actions, to create additional touchpoints, and move leads further down the funnel.

Targeting Audiences Across Channels

Programmatic campaign teams can develop an audience based on an action in CTV, like those who have viewed at least 75% of your client’s ad for example.

Once created, the campaign manager has a few options depending on the data and the desired outcome. They could exclude that audience, create a lookalike audience, and even take it somewhere else. This is one of Klever’s “tricks” Kent admitted to us during the interview (shh..don’t tell!).

Programmatic marketers can actually create an audience on one channel and use it to create an audience on another channel, which creates an environment for more precise targeting and desired performance outcomes. Again, with these techniques programmatic can be used to drive mid-funnel awareness and education, or the precious bottom-funnel purchase or conversion of some other kind.

Kent explains how to build audiences in CTV and use them across other programmatic channels. For example, you may have someone scan a QR code on a streaming commercial but still not take an action on your website. So with this audience, you could build a mobile ad or a display ad, or even another video ad to try and push them toward that desired conversion in a follow-up campaign.

The pitfall of CTV is that it can be less precise than a mobile campaign, because you may be showing your ad to many people in the same household.

While targeting is a bit looser here, it still lends itself to follow-up campaigns targeting lower-funnel goals because we have the ability to serve an ad to any device connected to that household’s modem or wifi. So with CTV, programmatic marketers can “continue the message from the big screen to anyone that’s connected to the household,” Kent explains.

“continue the message from the big screen to anyone that’s connected”

Programmatic marketers and strategists need to be able to piece together opportunities like this for their clients. As Kent says “From a performance point of view, one of the things we never want to hear from one of our clients is how come you didn’t do that for us?”

Programmatic advertising has the potential to be really powerful if the right targeting opportunities are understood and leveraged to drive the desired campaign outcomes.

Video Interview on Ad Targeting Basics with Kent Julien

Watch the full interview with our Director of Client Services, Kent Julien, right here, and then gorge yourself on the programmatic ad targeting quiz that awaits you after our top targeting tips below!

Top Ad Targeting Tips for 2023

We also had the pleasure of sitting down with Amal Yassin, our Director of Ad Operations, to talk about her top targeting tips in 2023 (she studiously worked on client accounts in between questions! Her dedication is inspiring.) If there’s anyone at Klever that you’ll want to talk targeting strategies with it’s Amal, so listen carefully because she had some advantageous advice (I see a Klever alliteration drinking game in my future…).

1. Leverage First-Party Data

With third-party data depreciation, measurement is becoming more challenging and it’s harder to get actionable IDs. Even last year, nearly half (47%) of identifiers were not cookie-based, Amal explains, so programmatic traders have to get in there and analyze their own data.

Understand the different datasets that you have access to. For example, first-party data like client emails, are great sources because of the amount of insight you get about a particular user. Programmatic marketers can understand a lot about a user’s preferences, trends and habits with first-party data, and then extend targeting to match those parameters.

Leverage first-party data on every impression if possible through audience extension. Scalable addressability is achievable with the right blend of data and technology.

2. Get More Media by Understanding Data Sources

Amal says if you’re buying data sets, seek to understand if the data set you’re buying was bought or if it’s actually the seller’s first-party data. You can even ask questions about how the data is modelled because “it’s going to have a massive impact on your campaigns.”

It’s not just about being accountable for the outcomes, it’s about the cost. If your vendor bought data from someone else, who may in fact have also bought the data from someone else, those costs are being passed on to the agency with everyone taking a little off the top. At the end of the day, there will be less money for media spend and ultimately less performance.

Track every strategy you run and look at cost-based metrics as opposed to CTR or viewability (CPC or cost per viewable impression). Follow the data and follow the dollars.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Have Hard Conversations with Clients

Be able to measure and communicate if the client’s KPI is achievable from the onset. Traders love data, and numbers and “have the client’s best interest in mind all the time,” Amal says, so the goal discussion is the most important one an agency will have with their client about a campaign.

Clients need to understand before a campaign goes live if their KPIs are achievable or not. For example, Amal explains that “Clicks don’t work in an environment such as CTV.” Therefore, if a client’s source of truth is Google Analytics (GA), our experts recommend not running CTV ads because they will never be able to see the lift of programmatic inside GA.

In this case, educate the client to understand that it doesn’t make sense to take a bottom-funnel metric like CPA and apply that to a top-of-funnel brand awareness campaign. If a client presents an unachievable KPI, don’t be afraid to have hard conversations with them. Amal ended with wise words “It’s in the client’s best interest to manage expectations.”

Watch the full interview with Amal here, then head down to the bonus quiz below!

Bonus Quiz: How Klever is Your Programmatic Ad Targeting?

Answer the following questions and put your programmatic ad targeting skills to the test. Then, add up your score to see how klever you really are!

Question 1. When a client gives you their campaign goal, you’re able to put together a programmatic targeting strategy…

A. On the spot, you almost blurted out ideas while the client was talking!

B. It will take you at least 24 hours to put together a targeting strategy for the campaign

C. With the help of a team, who can help you get the answers you need in a few days’ time

Question 2. Programmatic can support both top and bottom funnel metrics. True or false?



Question 3. When you build audiences in CTV, you can use them across programmatic marketing channels like:

A. Mobile Ads

B. Display Ads

C. Video Ads

D. All of the above

Question 4. Programmatic marketers have the ability to serve an ad to any device connected to a household’s modem or wifi. This is helpful to:

A. Spy on your audience so you can more effectively target them based on their behaviour

B. Gather the IP address of a user so you can serve them targeted messages later

C. Retarget users who have seen a CTV ad and continue the message outside the big screen

D. Know how many people are using big telecom providers

Question 5. Approximately what percentage of IDs were not cookie-based as of 2022?

A. 40%

B. 37%

C. 46%

D. 47%

Time to Score Your Ad Targeting Skills

Ok, you’ve taken the quiz and now it’s time to see how you did! Add up the numbers associated with the answer you gave above for each question to get your total score. Then read your score in the legend below.

Question 1

A – 10

B – 5

C – 2

Question 2

True – 10

False – 0

Question 3

A – 2

B – 2

C- 2

D – 10

Question 4

A – 0

B – 0

C – 10

D – 0

Question 5

A – 0

B – 0

C – 0

D – 10

Ad Targeting Bonus Quiz Score Legend

4-17 Points

You’re a Rising Star!

With an understanding of what matters most, you are full of potential to become a master programmatic targeting ninja.

18-27 Points

You’re on Fire!

You have almost mastered the world of programmatic targeting, bravo! Don’t quit now because you’ve come so far!

28-50 Points


As a seasoned programmatic targeting ninja, you spend all of your time meditating about the meaning of your last successful campaign. You can share your wisdom to bring even more meaning to your masterful advertising life!

Transcript Kent Julien, Director of Client Services

Marc: Kent, why do you think getting the basics right in targeting is more important now than ever?

Kent: When it comes down to it, in a programmatic campaign, every single impression counts. The way we see it, it’s almost a blend of science and magic. And to get that magical effect you really do need to know the science.

You need to understand the programmatic landscape, who your partners are, what your datasets are using, what DSPs are the best, and it goes on and on and on. When it comes down to the technologies, you have to be on top of it and ahead of the game, so you know how to blend the science to get the right message in front of the right person at the right time. And that’s the magic of programmatic.

If it’s a branding campaign, the clients want to see their ads when they’re driving down the highway, or on the screen at a sports event. If it’s an ROAS campaign or an ecom campaign, the client wants to see their return. And you need to know how to target the right people at the right time so they can buy the right inventory and come back.

And what I kind of love about programmatic is that there’s no fooling around. At the end of the campaign, the numbers don’t lie. So, we take it very seriously to make sure we’re on top of it and to bring performance to our clients.

At the end of the day, if that performance isn’t there, we don’t have a job. So, we hold everything to the highest standards, and vet top-tier partners, vendors and datasets. And again, just by learning and by being really intertwined with the science behind a programmatic campaign which enables you to be that magician and bring performance to the table.

Marc: What are some of the more recent innovations in targeting? What have you seen in the last year?

Kent: It goes without saying, CTV, connected TV, streaming TV commercials is the next biggest thing. If I were to ask a room full of people, how many people have a TV in their household it would be upwards of 99%. So that gives us a way to advertise to the masses.

The near or traditional TV is still very relevant, I’m not saying we have a silver bullet, but advertisers are putting their dollars where the eyeballs are, and there’s more and more people cutting their cable subscriptions and moving to streaming TV, and the dollars are shifting.

We’ve been talking about this for years, and it’s only now that it’s got this popular, and it’s only going to continue to grow. So it’s tremendous, CTV targeting, TV commercials are the next big wave.

For 2023, I think attention metrics will be big, a lot of people are moving away from the click, and we’re able to gauge how people are viewing ads, how long they’re viewing ads, we’re able to put QR codes for additional metrics…

Marc: Can you make audiences with that information?

Kent: Yes. All this data, all these extra metrics that we have available to us now, we’re able to make audiences, exclude audiences, create lookalike audiences.

Marc: So you could create an audience of the people who watched your ad on CTV for more than 80% of your ad, or completed watching it, and then create an audience with it and take that somewhere else?

Kent: Easily. You can set your metrics and bucket people who watched the entire ad, bucket a set of people who watched only 75% of the ad, you can have layered metrics – people who watched all of the ad and scanned a QR code. This is an additional action you can take on CTV commercials now. So, there are all these extra layers of working people down the funnel to your client’s end goal.

Marc: Can you take them to another medium or another channel? Could you take them to a mobile campaign for example? Like that audience from connected TV, you’re able to derive it and take them someplace else?

Kent: I’m holding back a smile, it’s one of our tricks actually.

Marc: Uh-oh..

Both: (Laughs)

Kent: It’s a way of working that client down the funnel. So from an awareness play, people may be watching something on CTV commercial and we have view metrics. So if they scanned a QR code, awesome. But how do you get to take action on your website now? Well, those same people, we continue to serve them a display ad, or another video ad, a native ad, or a mobile ad, and once they see that you’re continuing the message, you make sure those messages are relevant, along the path to the conversion journey, and then the end result is you want them to take an action on your website…so download a form, purchase, whatever it may be, we’re able to track all that. It’s pretty powerful data.

Marc: Ok so we can take create an audience with connected TV and take it somewhere else, but how do you bridge..connected TV is more of a hustle, there’s no cookies or personal identifiers. I’m assuming you guess that you’re going to show the ad to everyone in the house. So it’s not as precise, maybe a little bit looser in terms the targeting. But that’s how or why we move from a connected tv to another device.

Kent: Correct. So there’s numerous ways to do this. If someone watches something on CTV part of the trick is that any device that is connected to the modem within the household, we will then be able to serve an ad to any of those devices. And so that’s how we’ll be able to continue the message from the big screen to anyone that’s connected in the household.

Marc: Understood.

Kent: From a performance point of view, one of the things we never want to hear from one of our clients is “how come you didn’t do that for us.”

Marc: Right.

Kent: So part of our mantra, our methodology, is in one part we’re very educational, we always keep our agencies and partners in the loop. So, we’re educational from that sense and up to speed with anything that’s available in the programmatic landscape.

And in terms of performance, if there’s an opportunity for that campaign to go to the next level it’s almost not fair to not educate our clients and to share how we can bring it to the next level.

Transcript Amal Yasin, Director of Ad Operations

Marc: Amal, you manage a bunch of traders and you guys have your hands on the keyboards all day. What are your top targeting tips for traders?

Amal: Number one, with third-party data deprecation and measurement is becoming more challenging…Identity and getting actionable IDs out there to target them. I think the most important thing that traders in 2023 need to understand is that even last year 47% of IDs were not cookie-based. So do not be afraid to continue doing what you’re doing.

So, the best tip for a trader is to analyze your data, always analyze and get as much data as possible. Understand the different datasets that you have access to.

So, we have access to first-party data, whether it’s the client’s emails, or we place a pixel on the tag and that’s first-party data so always have that on because there is no better data for you to analyze than the first-party data. You can see what they do online, what people watch on TV, podcasts, and you can have amazing actionable insights from that.

Truly, I think it’s very important for us to understand the data we have access to. Try to see what you have access to and of that third-party data …is it the vendor’s third-party data? Or did they buy it somewhere? How is it modelled? Because it’s going to have a massive impact on your campaign.

If it’s third-party data that the vendor purchased it’s going to be more expensive and you’re going to have more costs because there is less money going into media. And also I think it’s important as traders, we like to learn, and we love to talk to all vendors that are out there.

Kent mentioned that attention metrics is something that we’re testing. Clicks don’t work in an environment such as CTV or the audio space, well I guess it could work, but it’s not as much of a relevant metric anymore. I think being up to speed and always thinking about your clients and your KPI – would this work with this client, or this dataset, or would it work for my specific KPI in the long run?

Marc: So, we talked about the fact that cookies are still relevant and we can still use them. But about half of identifiers are not cookies already and people don’t realize that. So we’re already well into that world. We talked about connected TV and the audiences there. We talked about third-party data providers and vendors, and understanding what’s their relationship with that data. Is it their data? Did they buy it from someone who bought it from someone, who bought it from someone?

Amal: Yes.

Marc: It’s like finance.

Amal: Follow the dollar.

Marc: Like someone’s fund buying from someone’s fund and everyone is taking a little bit off the top and at the end it costs too much. It doesn’t make sense.

Amal: Yes, you’ll have less media. It goes back to the biggest advice I can give, which may be obvious – understand the client’s KPI. Don’t be afraid to challenge your client if ever they come up with unreasonable KPIs. Because that’s going to dictate the optimizations you do, and if you don’t have a correct KPI or an achievable one, well then are you blocking everything? What are your steps here?

Marc: Yep.

Amal: I think understand your target audience but also don’t be afraid to challenge your client on the KPI if it doesn’t make sense. And taking the time before you launch the campaign to hey is my KPI relevant? Does it work? Is it achievable? Don’t be afraid to run numbers.

We’re traders, we love numbers and data. Be realistic about what you can achieve with a campaign given the budget and the target the client wants to achieve. If you think you cannot, you may need to invest more in upper funnel to fuel your lower funnel strategy [for example] and that’s how you’re going to reach your KPI, but don’t be afraid to tell your client this is not achievable.

Marc: Yeah, there’s education to be done.

Amal: Yes.

Marc: Because a lot of the advertisers we see enter the programmatic space come from Google ads and Facebook ads.

Amal: Yes.

Marc: They’re used to bottom-of-funnel KPIs, right? Like they’re used to measuring last click return on ad spend or hard CPA again based on last click, or maybe some attribution model. A lot of them are very oriented toward bottom-funnel metrics and they use those metrics for top-of-funnel campaigns. Awareness campaigns.

Amal: Yes.

Marc: And that’s often where things break down when they don’t understand what they’re trying to do – to reach more people or to create awareness for their company. The KPIs attached to that cannot be a hard CPA for this specific investment because that investment is going to influence things at the bottom of the funnel of course but with a more holistic approach.

Amal: Exactly, and ensuring that your client understands that, and don’t be afraid to have “hard” conversations. At the end of the day, managing expectations is in the client’s best interest. And we have the client’s best interest in mind all the time, not only at Klever but traders in general.

Image Credits

Feature Image: Unsplash/Melanie Deziel

Image 1: Via Publift

Image 2: Property of Klever Programmatic. Do not reproduce.

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