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Demographic marketing and retargeting – what our ads say about us and how to use it

I was scrolling through some of the news sources I read regularly when the ads provoked a question: what did the algorithms behind the ads served to me think I was like, and how could that be put to use?


To begin with, I’m going to give you the ads served to me over a few minutes on Facebook, The Guardian and The Independent – I’ve not taken anything exciting out, I really am this uninteresting – before I go into what this kind of thing can tell me, how it can be fed into the process of adding depth to our buyer personas, and assist us when marketing to demographics.

Exhibit A – Lego


lego ad

That I have children is my only excuse here – though, equally, Lego is ace.


Exhibit B – Charities


charity ads

I don’t know if these will have been targeted specifically at my demographic or because I’m a sopping wet, bleeding heart liberal, but I do see a lot of charity ads.


Exhibit C – Work Stuff


work ads

Hopefully this needs little explanation – I read a lot around search marketing topics and, as such, I’m followed around by Moz Tools, WordStream, SearchEngineLand and others.


Exhibit D – Offers


offer ads

Here I’m being courted by a broadband provider, a hipster furniture retailer and KitKat. I have to suspect that the KitKat and furniture are being targeted at my demographic (I must therefore assume I have below average interest in chocolate biscuits and oddly shaped chairs for my age and sex), but who doesn’t like broadband?


Exhibit E – Hobbies


sportive ad


This is an ad for a cycling event from London to Brighton – I have historically tended to do one or two cycle type things in a year and have looked some up recently. It also combines the charity angle with a hobby – so good work. Or, at least, it was when I started writing – made slightly less tempting today, however, by my morning commute…


What does all this tell me about me?

As I’m sure you do yourself, I feel I know me fairly well – but what I often forget is how well advertising algorithms also know me. I don’t, I’ll admit, usually pay a great deal of attention to the adverts that follow me around – but one five minute period of doing so left me a little surprised.

I was tempted to sign up to a cycling event, realised I have no idea what I pay for my broadband, ended up reading one of the charity posts and reminding my partner as to the imminence of the other, could think of at least five people that might like a shark shaped chair and that WordStream’s headline for their guide to AdRank is much better than the somewhat dry one I gave the one I wrote myself.

I think it would be fair to say, however, that my ads show my interest in the topics I write about, as well as an in purchasing Lego, the charity sector and an interest in cycling (still true despite covering more distance today than I would have liked on my face). It tells me that Nestle have a vicious disregard for my diet and that I should pay more attention to my broadband costs – in short, it fleshes out a buyer persona.

How can I use this as part of my content strategy?

While Click Consult is always focused on building accurate buyer personas, looking to demographics and trying to market our content to the people we think will most want it, what this represents is a reminder (to me, at least) of the third dimension that should be represented in buyer personas.

In this regard, therefore, I’m proposing a kind of feedback loop for persona and demographic marketing which can start with you and your team.

You will no doubt have your buyer personas already (if not, there’s a Click Consult eBook to help out), which will involve demographic data, device use, economic status, gender etc. and you may even have targeted some content following the results of a survey or two, but the ads served to you could provide unexpected ideas.


understanding your digital audience landing page header


The chances are that brand owners will have started out trying to fill a niche they thought was under-served – probably one of their own interests – it makes sense, therefore to assume that there will be intersections and Venn diagram overlaps with other interests and those of the brand’s consumers.

Instead of brainstorming, however, why not look at the ads you’re being served to see where your interests and those of your consumers? Advertising is becoming increasingly personalised and (as my own ads show) can reveal a lot about browsing habits, so why not let your own and those of your team show you the way?

Try assigning your team members to their closest fitting target demographic or buyer persona and use their targeted ads to develop content ideas and PPC ads which take advantage of the work that has gone in to the ads that preceded it.

As personalisation continues to be one of the main growth factors of online marketing, the bar is going to be continually raised – so why start from scratch? Build on the foundations already laid and see if you can surprise yourself with some of the content ideas that may arise from fleshing out your buyer personas.


Need help building or fleshing out your buyer personas, or in targeting the right demographics with your marketing? Why not contact us today?



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