The digital campaign building blocks
Digital can seem overwhelming at first, but after you get the basics down, the sky’s the limit to what you can achieve
Digital advertising has been slowly but steadily rising as one of the preferred methods for businesses of all sizes to target their market and audience segments more accurately and effectively. This rise is nowhere near its peak—digital spend is projected to account for 66% or more of total ad spending by 2023.
The true benefits of digital advertising over traditional ads on traditional media lie in their targeted nature. Digital ad platforms allow for extremely narrow targeting of niche segments. When combined with personalized messaging and creatively designed ads, digital advertisers are able to achieve a far higher level of conversion than traditional ad campaigns.
Further, digital advertising is far more accessible to businesses of all sizes. A small business with even a single marketer on the team can generally handle the entirety of the campaign—from message to design to implementation. The agile nature of digital advertising means that it’s a completely self-service process, that can be executed end-to-end from the convenience of your desk.
However, the most important aspect of digital advertising is its high return on investment. While traditional channels generally involve huge advertising budgets, by using targeted digital ads brands can reach their potential audiences for a relatively much lower spend, creating a dramatically higher ROI.
All that being said, digital can be overwhelming at first and feel more complex than it really is. Let’s dive into the basics of digital advertising and see how marketers of all shapes and sizes can take advantage.
The basic structure of most digital advertising follows what appears to be a complex structure but is actually pretty simple.
You start by creating a campaign. Within that campaign, you can create ad sets. Within each ad set, you can create individual ads. Think of it as levels: campaign > ad set > ad.
Here’s an example: A Beauty & Cosmetics company creates three campaigns for three objectives: awareness for customer acquisition, cart abandoners dynamic remarketing, and existing customer retention.
Each campaign is divided into ad sets based on audience segments.
Each ad set is divided further by product affinity: hair products, facial & makeup products, body lotions and exfoliators.
Campaigns are about objectives, budget and optimization method.
Campaigns are for broad objectives: “Sell haircare products.” You can choose an overall budget for all the haircare products you want to advertise.
But campaigns aren’t always about making a direct sale—digital advertising can have many objectives:
- Awareness—you want to let people know your brand exists (for a new brand or for a new market your brand wants to enter). Or maybe you just want to let a market segment know about a new product or service—sales are not the goal.
- Engagement—you want to get people involved with your brand and talking. Maybe you want to increase followers or build an email list, increasing your brand’s reach in anticipation of a sales campaign to follow.
- Conversions—you want to sell something directly, or at least get people to take a specific action, like downloading a free PDF.
- Remarketing—you want to send the same message, possibly with some discounts or other offers, to customers who have been inspecting your products/services online but haven’t pulled the trigger.
- Retention—you want existing customers to take more action.
Budget - you can designate how much you’re spending per day or month and how you want to control your spend - accelerated, day parting, etc.
Optimization - when setting up your campaign you can choose how the ad network will optimize your bid, spend and targeting. You can optimize for reach, engagement, clicks or a specific conversion you designate.
Once you’re clear on your objectives, you can start to think about something unique to digital advertising—audience targeting. Where traditional advertising can give you a rough estimate of your audience, digital advertising’s true power lies in your ability to target extremely specific audiences.
Ad Sets or Ad Groups
Ad sets or groups are where you can control audience targeting. You should have an ad set for each audience segment you’re targeting. The ad set is where you start to target: “This summer, we want to sell SPF makeup to women over forty making over 250k with three children or more who love the outdoors and have visited our website before and live in upstate New York.”
Audience Inclusions—audience must have these characteristics, or these keywords must be included, or members of an audience that have taken certain actions must be included.
Audience Exclusions—to avoid overlap of communication and self competition (don’t target members of other custom audiences for other campaigns, ad sets, or ads so that you’re not competing with your own ads, or exclude certain keywords or certain types of people from ads/ad sets/campaigns).
We’ll discuss audience targeting in detail later int this post.
This is the lowest level of the campaign where you have the actual ads your audience will see. The ads are where you come up with a specific message that’s meant to appeal to your specific audience. For search engine advertising, this usually is connected with a small selection of keywords (or just one) and includes a link to a page on your website that sells one product or service.
A single ad might be a single image/video, with or without text, that a customer might see on their Facebook page. For search engines, this might be a simple link at the top of a Google search that is tagged “ad” and includes some explanatory text or pricing information. When customers click, they end up on your website or landing page and see that specific item.
Facebook and Google provide a myriad target options that allow you to create granular audience segments based on your needs. There are a ton of different ways you can target and build a specific audience that you think will be most likely to resonate with your message. Here are just a few of your options:
- Target by demographics—(age, gender, wage, occupation, professional associations, education level, life events (marriage, children, divorce) etc.)
- Device type (mobile/desktop/tablet, iOS/Android, etc.)
- Interests (what they do for fun, what they search for online, what they are fans of, etc.)
- Custom audiences based on a broad set of data of your customers/target customers and all their interactions with your brand through a data management platform.
- Customer Match—target customers whose email you have in an email list.
- In-market Audiences—target customers with certain behaviors.
- Placement targeting—choose specifically where your ad will show up on your customer’s screen.
- Product Audiences—dynamic remarketing, where audiences who have come to your website and look at certain products or services are shown those products/services when they visit other websites.
- Remarketing lists—customers who have already viewed your website are shown your ads when they visit other sites, but in a broader sense than product audiences.
- Similar/Lookalike audiences—create an audience of potential customers who have similar characteristics to some of your existing, awesome customers (meaning they are more likely to be interested in your brand/what you sell).
Another big benefit of digital advertising over traditional advertising is the level of measurement you have access to. All advertising platforms offer advanced built-in measurement capabilities that enable you to track your campaign’s key performance indicators. Many platforms also make it possible—by adding a bit of code to your website (called a pixel)—to track a consumer from their website onto yours.
When you link your website to Facebook or Google in this way, they can tell you not just how your ads performed, but what happened after someone viewed the ad or clicked. They can tell you how many people converted (clicked on your ad or took some action), and then they can tell you if they went on to take more action on your website (like making a purchase).
Optimizing your campaigns, ad sets, and ads based on how they’re performing is the final step in digital advertising.
Digital advertising allows you to change every facet of your digital ads—from the amount you spend to the amount you’re willing to pay for each view or click, to the images or videos you’re using, the text you’ve written, the landing page you’re linking to, and even the text on a button.
This sounds complex, but really it’s just putting more control in your hands.
What’s so great about being able to control and change every aspect of your campaign is that you can make small changes to, for example, a simple ad, and then see if that ad performs better or worse. You might increase the budget or bid, refine your audience segment, change the button text, swap out the video or image, and then see if you get more clicks, views, and even sales on your website or calls to your business. The ability to A/B test like this allows you, over time, to spend less and get more out of each campaign, ad set, or ad—something that is essentially impossible with traditional advertising.
In my next article, I’ll get into the specifics of targeting and give you tips for getting the most out of your ads from the beginning. Stay tuned!