The Drum Awards Festival - Extended Deadline

-d -h -min -sec

PPC Technology Performance Marketing

Audience-first: the future of paid performance

By Victoria Blount, Head of paid performance



The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

Find out more

February 23, 2018 | 5 min read

What does ‘audience-first’ mean to you?

A man stands with his back to camera addressing an audience.

If you don’t understand your audience moving through 2018/19, you will start to see lower click-through rates, which will affect the overall results of your campaigns.

It doesn’t matter what marketing you’re running – whether it’s TV, banner ads, print or radio – you’re still trying to affect an audience. Gone are the days of putting out an ad and expecting people to align themselves. Individual audiences expect more, so targeting must be better, and messaging needs to be super-relevant.

Combining this change in audience focus with the vast amounts of data provided to us by the likes of Facebook and Google, means that more relevant targeted campaigns are expected. As marketers, we need to truly understand who we’re targeting; who are they, what do they need the product for, what are their triggers, what are their blockers for not converting? Modern marketers need to deep-dive into data analytics, overlay psychology and use all that insight to craft a campaign.

Paid search and social must work together in a holistic way

Regardless of the channel, your goal is to reach out to a customer base and influence them to complete an action, whether that’s filling out a contact form or buying a product.

To achieve this, we must ensure agility is front of mind on every campaign: how do we turn up and turn down certain channels to make sure we’re in front of the customer at the right point in their journey, to increase the potential of them completing the target action?

The good news is that the learnings gained during 2017 from pushing the audience-first approach via 'paid social' can now be applied to 'paid search' in the same way. All of the data points that we already understand about a customer apply equally to paid search. Focusing on keywords is still part of the equation, but it must be combined with a strong understanding of the customer, their consideration period, and any barriers that could stop them from converting.

It's obviously wise to look at how each channel uniquely influences the audience. Social, for example, might do a lot of the new audience acquisition, and then pay-per-click (PPC) might pick up a lot more of the remarketing.

Agile, multi-channel solutions are key

At Return, we typically come across two main issues when we’re auditing clients’ accounts. The first, is that in PPC people are still hammering keywords, when paid search is now far more sophisticated than that. The audience-first approach we take maximises the potential of paid search, to deliver highly relevant campaigns to the right people during the right micro-moments – and we have the ROAS stats to prove it.

The second issue is around paid social. It isn’t a mature industry, so there are still a lot of bad practices, and no one set way of working. People do whatever they think they should do – chuck in £20k to promote a post and hope for the best, or just run bottom-of-the-funnel activity because they can’t attribute the value to new audience.

We’ve been looking more at the integration between both paid channels, to stop them running in silos. For example, we’ll as set up audience lists based on new audience campaigns in Facebook, collect that data within AdWords, and speak to those customers in different ways. In this instance, we know that they’ve been qualified by social and have come in as high-quality users, because we’ve used pixel data to make sure they are a lookalike of someone who has purchased or spent over a certain value previously.

Long gone are the days of prospects coming to us saying “we need PPC”; now they come to us with business problems, objectives or KPIs and ask us to help them achieve it regardless of channel.

If brands want to stay ahead of the curve and truly engage in a rapidly changing digital environment, they must put their audiences at the heart of their marketing strategies. It will break down internal silos, foster multi-channel solutions and drive a positive impact for consumers and businesses alike.

Victoria Blount is head of paid performance at Return

PPC Technology Performance Marketing

Content by The Drum Network member:


Return was born in September 2008 with one simple aim: to maximise our clients' return on digital.

The digital world has seen extraordinary changes since...

Find out more

More from PPC

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +