Report: Ad targeting on mobile reaches parity with desktop

Dive Brief:

  • New research from Nielsen reveals 60% of mobile ad impressions between April and June of this year were viewed by the targeted audience, up from 49% during the same period a year ago, as reported by The Wall Street Journal
  • Mobile has typically trailed desktop in targeting accuracy, but Nielsen's numbers show the percentage of desktop ad impressions reaching their intended target is also around 60%, putting the two channels on equal footing for the first time. 
  • Targeting accuracy still varies by channel based on approach, with desktop ads performing better for targeting broader age ranges and mobile pulling ahead in engaging with more narrow audiences. 

Dive Insight:

The Nielsen numbers are noteworthy because mobile's weaker targeting capabilities compared to desktop is one of the reasons why marketers have not invested heavily in mobile campaigns, even though consumers spend a significant amount of their time on smartphones. With a well-respected measurement entity like Nielsen saying that mobile targeting has made gains, this tipping point could be enough to encourage some marketers to invest more in mobile.

The findings are also significant because targeting currently is a hot topic for debate, with many marketers struggling to find the right balance of relevancy and new customer acquisition. Targeting holds out the promise of being able to deliver more focused and relevant messages while boosting return on investment.

However, the possibility that targeting might not be the panacea some had expected was made evident earlier this year when P&G's chief brand officer Marc Pritchard said the company had gone too narrow with ads on Facebook. P&G's too narrow approach resulted in lost sales, and going forward Pritchard said the company would start cutting back on targeting to take a broader approach.

One possible takeaway from the Nielsen study is that marketers could potentially address the targeting issue by putting more of a focus on desktop for broader appeals while enlisting mobile for a more narrow approach, but even with this bifurcation, the right mix between the two is still open for debate and further analysis.

Filed Under: Analytics Mobile