From people-centric to interest-centric: the new wave of marketing innovation


A new wave of privacy regulations make consumer targeting much less efficient than before. Interest-centric marketing is the future, and promoters can take full advantage of their diverse content.

The last 10 years in digital marketing were driven by ever-improving targeting options. Lookalike audiences and retargeting enabled a super-fast, convenient, and easy way of making sure ads were seen by the right people. On the other hand, the data-driven ad-tech industry did very little to help marketeers create better copy and content. Driven by a new wave of privacy regulations(from GDPR to Apple's ATT) promoters now see a substantial decrease in the effectiveness of their targeting options. Now, they’re starting to regret spending 10 years improving only 50% of what drives campaign efficacy (user targeting) and ignoring the other 50% (content).

It's time to have a look at why content is more important than ever before.

Content is the future

Marketing used to be essentially people focused. The ad-tech industry measured and tracked individuals and tried to understand them. For many industries this worked great, much better than anything before. It worked so well in fact, that whole industries were built on it. Remember the D2C trend and companies like Dollar Shave Club or Casper? Those were fuelled by direct response ads on Facebook. They were powered by lookalike audiences and retargeting campaigns. Measuring individual user behaviour through cookies, identifying the most successful conversions and tasking Facebook with finding more of the same people.

Against the backdrop of expanding privacy regulations, the future now points to the centralisation of a few big platforms. Platforms big enough to own enough in-platform user data (think Amazon, or gaming giants like Epic Games) will be able to serve ads and convert users directly within their platforms. This poses a problem to all the other companies that relied mostly on user engagement tracking across platforms. Withal, nobody (not even Apple) is looking to reverse this trend. To be able to serve targeted ads, you need a lot of data allowing you to observe user behaviour and interest.

Eric Seufert put together a great overview of the changes to the ad-tech ecosystem and what content companies (especially gaming) can do next¹. He chose the term "content fortresses" and underlines that this may work for big gaming and other content platforms where activity AND conversion can happen on the same platform. However, the way the industry is currently set up, this isn’t a tenable solution for promoters - probably not even the biggest ticketing platforms - as they lack the content usage of users to gain enough insights into people’s interests.

So, what about promoters?

For promoters targeting always worked slightly differently. Ultimately, it’s always been more difficult because taste in music is much harder to grasp and to describe. A concert is in most cases a one-time happening, making it near impossible to have enough time, iteration cycles and budget to get into the sweet spot of the advertising feedback loop.

As powerful as Facebook’s understanding of their users is (and they are the best in that category by far!), they are not good at understanding music tastes. People are willing to let friends choose a restaurant for example but are way less comfortable letting people buy them concert tickets without knowing for which music or artist. Taste in music is more diverse and personal than most other things.

Promoters therefore reverted to traditional segmentation methods, relying on socio-demographic data to cluster audiences and fans. Unfortunately, the fact is that this works even less. Note this famous example of Prince Charles and Ozzy Osbourne:

If you look at segmentation features usually used by promoters like age, gender, post code etc. you see that they do little to help you decide who to target for a specific show or event.

What’s next?

Netflix were one of the first to openly share their reservations about this. Their success is the result of focusing only on people’s interests rather than on the people themselves. This interest-based approach enables them to describe the diverse interests their users have. Like Netlifx users, concertgoers can be interested in a symphony concert with a famous French female violinist but also in the next upcoming metal wunderkind playing his or her first gig in the small club next door. Traditional customer segmentation methods simply do not support this diversity of music tastes.

The obvious answer for promoters is to design systems that only focus on interest and to cluster based on fans' interests. The powerful ad networks of today enable targeting those interests.

Knowing WHY people buy tickets gives promoters an edge over big platforms. As they get more independent from ticketing and ad platforms, switching between them becomes easier. If you know why people are interested and what message they need to see to purchase a ticket or subscribe to an offer, you can decide on which platform to focus on.

What to do about it?

Marketeers must shift their focus towards understanding and targeting interests. It enables better targeting and the possibility to match creative content to targeting criteria - all automatically. It increases independence and enhances the speed at which promoters can adopt new and upcoming platforms.

Interest centric marketing will be one of the most important strategic levers for marketeers who do not own a content fortress. Many industries need to speed up their efforts to catch up and rework their whole ad-tech stack. Promoters can now finally leverage their past disadvantage (very, very diverse content) into a powerful advantage. The more diverse the content, the better the understanding of fans tastes and interests.