Demographic Surveys And Advertising…

from the does-it-really-matter? dept

As some people know, we’re a part of Federated Media’s network of sites. Working with FM has been great. Advertising has not been a main part of our business model, but with so many requests coming in every day, we figured it was worth experimenting with an advertising program. FM keeps asking us to put a survey on the site, to get people to volunteer their demographic information. Honestly, I don’t know how useful that info really is for targeting ads — and I’m not sure I believe that advertisers really need that info to understand who’s reading the site. However, it’s how the ad game works. If such things bug you (and they do bug plenty of people), please feel free to ignore the survey and this post. I’ll be interested to see if the data actually does help better target ads. In related news, FM has now launched their self-serve platform for anyone looking to place advertisements on any of the sites in their network. While Google gets all sorts of credit for contextual advertising, one of their real innovations was making it easy for advertisers to places ads. Other online ad systems involved way too much effort for many (especially small) advertisers. FM’s John Battelle, who has literally written the book on Google, obviously understands this and is putting into practice with this platform.

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Comments on “Demographic Surveys And Advertising…”

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John Burnham (user link) says:

Demographics actually do help quite a bit

Knowing demographics can actually really help advertising. For instance, if you find out 85% of your readers are males, you probably won’t want to run ads for make-up, linens, dresses, women’s shoes, etc. Using targeted marketing has a positive spiral effect. First, it provides a better return per impression for your advertisers, as your readers are more likely to click on ads that are relevant to them (and to buy products that are targeted to them). Increased relevance of ads also reduces the “noise” on yoru web pages. Over time, this has the effect of your readers paying more attention to your ads, which will increase your click-through ratios, which again provides a better return per impression for your advertisers, and so forth.

Forgive me for going on about this, but I design surveys for a living and think relating demographics to marketing is a vastly underappreciated aspect of marketing.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Demographics actually do help quite a bit

Hi John,

Your comment makes sense… if everything works perfectly.

There are a few reasons I don’t buy it.

First, as others have pointed out, the info given in surveys isn’t necessarily accurate. Some may lie. Second, it’s a self-selecting bias where only the people who choose to answer the surveys give data.

However, the bigger issue is that if anyone reads this site regularly, you should know who it attracts without needing survey info. Your extreme example (85% male) is silly… because anyone reading a site with that high a male readership would KNOW that without having to look at the demographic data.

Finally, for the type of ads that would run on a site like this, I really doubt that you can get that fine a level of targeting that would really increase clickthroughs. It’s not hard to figure out what a well targeted ad would be from the CONTENT on the site, rather than the demographic info of the readership. No one’s going to advertise make-up here, because of the content. They might advertise computers. Demographic info isn’t going to change that.

Good Point says:

You bring up a good point John targeted marketing defintely works better than trying to shove tampon ads down male throats. The problem is that internet surveys are probably giving you as much bad as good information, since its become standard practice to feed surveys garbage information. Internet ads to me at least have become noise, I never look at them, never click them, and if I happen to be using firefox I might even be inclined to just remove ads that are too obtrusive to be ignored. So I guess keep relying on people who don’t know any better to punch the monkey.

Agonizing Fury says:

Too targeted now

I must say that demographic information would help them out a lot in my case. As an American in Iraq who gets internet service through a satellite feed based in Germany, many of the ads presented are useless to me. They are either in German or for services available only in Germany. (and there’s this one that really gives me the creeps with a creepy looking woman with yellow glowing eyes. I think it’s for a cell phone comapany, but I’m not really sure).

Olivier (user link) says:

Not perfect but still better than nothing

I agree, profiling surveys are not perfect because of the self-selection bias. If there was an incentive to take surveys, your audience would be more inclined to take it, and although there would probably be some liers, who cares as long as it is not significant. Surveys are not scientific but helpful guidelines so I would conduct one anyway.

As an advertiser, I am already using Google’s demographic targeting, and like email marketing because of its high targeting capabilities. I don’t know how RSS advertising will ever work with demographic targeting.

That being said, Techdirt is reaching a very specific target group, mostly B2B. Advertisers will probably want to advertise on Techcrunch to reach an upscale population of Internet opinion leaders, whatever their age and gender. If I want to sell tennis shoes to 18-24 years old male, I won’t advertise on Techcrunch even if it’s the audience. If I were you, I would instead focus your questions on your reader’s profession and industry, with a focus on IT of course. B2B advertisers will spend much more money than B2C for a same lead…

eb says:

Why not target their interest

instead of their demographics? Anyone here is going to be interested in technology. Why not advertise to that? Aside from my demographic, I’m not interested in clothing, for example, when I’m browsing tech sites. If I’m shopping, that’s different, and I go to different sites.

I really question the value of throwing random, demographically-based ads at your audience. I think people go different places for different things. It’s also entirely possible that I see things differently than most people.

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