Alida Arteaga, Regional Coordinator

8 June 2021

Targeted Advertising: Why, How, and Where

Everyone got tired of saying “data is the new oil” as far as 10 years ago, but it actually is. The new era of targeted advertising shook up the landscape and almost decimated good old general banners. Let’s look at how you can take advantage of the much-improved tech today.

Targeted Advertising Basics

First thing first, what makes modern targeted advertising possible is Facebook being everywhere. As a website owner, you would like to install their code (Pixel) to see whether your Facebook ads are converting. Pixel also happens to plant a cookie onto the visitor’s website, which is later used to chase the user with your ads elsewhere. Furthermore, Facebook uses this information to categorize users on very many levels so that users are shown very relevant ads - on Facebook or otherwise. 

Targeted advertising is actually not about picking a specific person and advertising to that person only. Instead, advertisers narrow down a large audience by various filters, often very specific, to increase the response rate. The fewer times you need to show an ad for 10 people to buy your product, the higher your profit margin is. 

Similar to choosing a product in an online store, you start with broad strokes and relevancy already jumps quite a bit. Lingerie stores would rather advertise only to people who Facebook’s database classifies as women. There are some margin of error and edge cases involved, but just one criterion here slashes the audience by dozens of percentages.

The great thing about targeted advertising is that you can take the opposite routes. Let’s take competitive video games. Although the industry at large shows an almost 1:1 male to female split when including hyper-casual mobile games, First-Person Shooters and Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas are 9:1 male. For companies building a business around this niche inside gaming, advertising to men only would be the easy route. On the other hand, some companies would rather focus their effort on women to avoid the ad budgeting arms race and fill a gap. 

Not Just Cost Saving

Although getting more sales per buck is the main advantage of targeted advertising, it is not the only reason to turn to it. 

Validation is another huge benefit of targeted advertising. Let’s say you have a hypothesis that the target audience for your product is high school graduates in Brighton. Instead of trying to advertise on local websites hoping that enough graduates respond, you set up ads that will be displayed to the young lads only. If they don’t click the ad much, you can already start investigating: is it the ad/product that needs more love or you missed the target audience? Well, good thing launching the same ad targeting undergraduates will be pretty simple.

Scaling also becomes much easier with targeted advertising. The idea here is similar. If you need to sell 20 flats before the end of the year (for a bonus if nothing else), why don’t further narrow down the 30 - 40 age bracket by advertising to recently married couples only? Showing the ads to a relevant audience much faster compared to a traditional ad should result in much faster sales.

Re-engagement (the industry term is remarketing) helps nurture interest in a product or service and capitalize on it when the person is ready. Plenty of things, from OLED TVs to educational courses, take some time before you’re ready to buy one. This is why an advertising specialist can opt to show one ad several times a day, to warm you up to the idea of buying a product. Depending on what they’re selling and resources, some advertisers would prefer to change the ads as they drive you toward the purchase. For example, they may be trying to address your concerns for wireless earbuds - battery life, sound quality, size - one at a time.

Facebook Targeted Advertising

Let’s look at how you can narrow down your audience when advertising on Facebook. We’ll take a real-life example of us promoting a recent design webinar.

Location targeting naturally allows us to make sure we advertise in Sweden only, but there’s more nuance to it. You can opt to advertise to people who live in Sweden but are now outside the country, to people who live in Sweden and are still here, and even to people whose location patterns show they are tourists. Although irrelevant in our case, this is a very nice option for not-so-niche industries, such as companies putting forward a claim for delayed flight within the EU on the tourists’ behalf.

We can also include or exclude certain cities within a country (or countries) that we chose. Although irrelevant for a webinar, this is really helpful when your business operates in certain cities only. There’s also an option of targeting certain cities+x km around them to account for suburbs and/or delivery constraints. 

Age bracket, depending on your product, can be a very significant factor for paid ads. We see our UI/UX design course as both qualification for the first job in one’s life and a career-changing opportunity. With the average age of a career changer at roughly 39 years, we can play it safe and promote the webinar for people aged 18 - 45. Facebook’s current options stretch from 13 to 65+. 

Gender targeting options provided by Facebook include Men, Women, All. Naturally, we choose the last option.

Detailed targeting is where the fun (or misery - if you’re the one being tracked this thoroughly) begins. It is split into three major categories: demographics, interests, behaviors.

Demographics starts off pretty wide with education, and you’ll also be able to narrow it down with the industry your target audience works in. The life situation section, however, gets pretty specific: you can target people who just got engaged, married, or are in a long-distance relationship. Speaking of relationships, the precision is somewhat scary.

Interests are very helpful when your ad tries to raise awareness, which is one of our goals for webinars. Pretty much every category has multiple subcategories that branch out further.

The real value, however, is in the search bar. It makes navigating the gigantic number of interests that much easier, and it also reveals a lot of additional interests not visible from the dropdown menus. Much of our targeting happens for this webinar relies on these additional interests. Have a look below.

Behavioral targeting enables targeting by a variety of interesting patterns. 


The categories and the subcategories can go pretty deep. For example, you can target "friends of soccer fans".

Another prominent category here is consumption classification. Facebook provides this targeting options for only about a dozen countries, but it indeed makes navigating certain markets easier. 

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Targeted advertising is not just about your idea of what people want, but also anticipating what people want before they know it. We can teach you that in our Digital Marketing course. You’ll become well versed in online advertising, Search Engine Optimization, and analytics in just 4 months.