What Are Target Ads? And How Do They Work?

Ever saw an ad for something you were just talking about?

We’ve all been a victim of target ads at some point without even realizing it. They’re very easy to spot once you actually pay attention to the type of ads you see online. Have you ever thought of or talked about how great something is? And a few moments later saw ads for the very same thing on Facebook or Instagram. This isn’t telepathy or voodoo magic, just simple targeted advertising. But what are target ads, and how do they work? Read on ahead to find out! 

What Are Target Ads?

Target ads are a type of online advertisement that are highly customized to meet their target audience’s interests and traits. To create target ads, marketers and advertisers collect a lot of information on the consumers they are targeting. Advertisers collect consumer information such as age, location and browsing behavior. Most of this data comes from cookies. Almost every website collects tidbits of information on their websites in the form of cookies. Some social media platforms and websites even sell this information which is a great asset for marketers. Advertisers use this information to segment their audience according to a number of factors. These include demographics, shopping habits, and even your preferred shopping device. They then create customized ads for each of these segments. These targeted ads have a much higher chance of conversion, hence why they are so effective. 

Importance of Target Ads

We’re living in the digital world now, and online advertisements have become the norm. No matter what you’re doing, you’ll see ads pop up left and right. Since affiliate advertising is a great way for websites to make money, almost every website or blog will have shopping ads on them. Most of these ads get ignored as it’s all just noise. So how do advertisers cut through this noise and reach their audience? Targeted advertising is the answer. These ads are specifically designed for a particular group of shoppers and very strategically placed on websites they frequently visit. If you see an ad for an item you’re interested in on your favorite blog, there’s a high chance you’ll click on it. Target ads improve brand visibility and increase consumer engagement by showing them exactly what they need. 

Benefits of Target Ads

Here are a few of the benefits of targeted advertising over other forms of digital marketing: 

More Personalization

Personalization is one of the cornerstones of digital marketing. Personalization shows that brands understand their audience better than others. Consumers also prefer ads that are personalized for their needs and interests. Target ads have much more potential for personalization. Not only can they feature specific products or deals, but they give more room for using certain tones and language. For example, a furniture company will use different images and captions to sell the same sofa to different people. Their tone will be vastly different with married couples compared to single people. Or when selling to people from different income classes. By personalizing ads, brands can show consumers that they understand their needs. When consumers realize this, they’re much more likely to engage with their ads and shop from them. 

Brand Awareness

Marketers use targeted ads to build brand awareness with their target audience. Such ads help marketers and brands go after people who are already interested in their niche. This helps build a better reputation for the brand, and they’ll be inclined toward them the next time they see their ad. Ads that are relevant to them and have valuable content are more effective at building awareness and reputation. If an ad is poorly placed and doesn’t have anything to do with consumers, they will notice. It’s likely they won’t click on future ads or buy from them again. On the other hand, relevant ads will pique their interest in both the ad and the brand itself. 

Maximizes Advertising

Traditional advertising is a waste of creative content. Marketers spend a lot of time, effort and resources to create content for online ads. But all of these are wasted when their ads don’t bring about the results they expected. But with targeted advertising, the results speak for themselves. Target ads streamline your resources and ad content by focusing them on certain groups of people. They bring out the maximum potential of each creative piece by sending them to consumers that most relate to them. Such focus yields better results, and a marketer’s time and efforts aren’t wasted. 

Improves ROI

When creating target ads, marketers collect a wide variety of information on their audience. They use information such as age, location and interests to appeal to them. This streamlines their target audience and shows them who they want to target and who will have a much higher chance of converting. In traditional advertising, there’s a lot of guesswork involved. Target ads eliminate these guesses by telling you exactly who to target. When you’re only targeting consumers who will convert, you’re making better use of your marketing budget. Your conversion rate increases, and so do your sales and revenue. Thus, target ads boost your ROI and make better use of your marketing spend. 

Low Cost

Targeted advertising is so much cheaper than other forms of online marketing, especially when compared to traditional PPC campaigns. With traditional advertising, you’re spending a lot of money in the hopes that some people will engage with your ads. That’s a waste of your budget. With target ads, you’re sending your ads directly to people who are interested in them and have a higher chance of a conversion. This reduces your cost as you’re targeting a focused niche instead of a broad audience. The cost of advertising space is also much lower. You won’t be competing with bigger brands with a much larger marketing budget. 

Types of Target Ads

Targeted advertising looks at who you are and what you do before showing you an ad!

As is the case with every other type of advertising, target ads are also very diverse and complex. These are the most popular types of target ads that marketers use:


Demographic ads use consumer traits such as age, income, gender, religion and education to segment their audience. These pieces of information are the easiest to acquire for marketers, which makes this type the most popular one. This type works best when a brand has products that appeal to a very specific group of people. An easy example to understand such products is insurance policies. An insurance provider can target consumers above the age of 60 if their primary product is senior citizen health insurance. 


Geotargeting might just be one of the most important tools an advertiser has. These ads are location-specific and target groups of consumers in a certain area. These are mostly used by brands that sell region-wise or operate locally. This makes geotargeting popular among small businesses. For example, an insurance provider whose primary product is catastrophe insurance would use geotargeting. They would want their ads for flood insurance to appear in Florida (a flood-prone state) and not in landlocked states.


This type of target advertising has more to do with the placement of the ad rather than consumer information. Contextual advertising means placing your ads where they are most relevant. Rather than spreading them all over the internet, you want them to be where they make the most sense. This type helps match the ad’s content with the context of where it’s placed. The website where the ad is directed must be relevant to the ad. This shows consumers that the product in the ad is related to the content they just viewed. For example, an ad for pet accessories would be best suited for pet blogs rather than a tech blog. 


Behavioral targeting is another popular type. This type of advertising implies studying a consumer’s online behavior. Marketers and advertisers look at how users surf the internet, the links they click on, the items they purchase and their search history. This type of targeting is very common among ecommerce websites. They study your purchase history and the items you’ve viewed to choose which ads to direct toward you. You will then see ads for items that complement your previous purchases. Advertising platforms use consumers’ online behavior and group them together to form clusters. This makes behavioral targeting much easier. 


Retargeting is a broader marketing strategy that goes after past customers and audiences. In advertising, it means targeting consumers who have already engaged with your brand. Either by clicking on an ad or buying a product. This type of target ad uses information that is already available, e.g., in your CRM or email lists. Brands often retarget website visitors who look at products but end up leaving without buying them. Such ads would advertise the same product if the user didn’t make a purchase or complementary products if they did. For example, if you buy sports equipment, a retargeting ad campaign will show you sports clothing and accessories. Retargeting ads are very effective in reducing shopping cart abandonment


Time targeting is when advertisements run during specific periods. The most important piece of information here is when people are most active online. This information can make a huge difference in the success of an ad campaign. Ads that run during the night time when most of the audience is asleep will bring no conversions compared to those that run during the day. Advertisers also study which group of consumers are active at what time. Middle-aged working people will likely shop in the evening after they’re done with work. But the retired elderly will be more active in the morning and around noon. The best time to run target ads changes with the audience you’re targeting. 


As the name suggests, this type of targeting only directs ads to consumers with specific devices. Advertisements can be customized to create different versions for different devices. A popular distinction is between Computers, tablets and smartphones. If your audience is Gen Z, who are most active on their smartphones, they will only see ads optimized for mobile devices. Another great distinction is between iOS and Android. If you advertise an Android app, your audience is specifically Android users. You wouldn’t want to waste resources by advertising to iOS users. 

Social Media

This is a relatively new type of targeting but one that has gained immense traction over the years. This is because of the popularity of social media platforms shooting high. Social media is a playground for advertisers to target like-minded consumers. Social media targeting is almost like behavioral targeting but only looks at social media users. Every social media platform collects demographic and behavioral information on its users. Advertisers can use this information to send ads to users who show interest in their brand or niche. For example, a sportswear company would target users in a Facebook Group of athletes or sports fans. 

Tips for Targeted Advertising

Creating a targeted advertising campaign is a very complex process and requires advertising experts to go through a lot of data and make important strategic decisions. There are a lot of things that can go wrong and ruin your campaign. But here are a few tips and best practices to create a successful targeted advertising campaign;

Experiment with split-tests: Split-test your audience to see what works with them and what doesn’t. Create two versions of your campaign. And change only one factor in your targeting parameters. The difference in results will show what your audience prefers and how to best target them. 

Target past customers: Acquiring new customers is challenging and very costly. On the other hand, loyal customers are much more likely to buy from you again. Targeting your existing customer base is much more effective than wandering into unknown territories. 

Show ads to followers: This is just like targeting your existing customer base but on social media. Direct your ads toward social media users who already follow your page. Platforms like Facebook allow you to target users who’ve hit the Like button. 

Don’t limit yourself: The point of target ads is to go after a niche audience. But limiting yourself to a super-specific group will hurt your campaign and waste resources. To figure out the optimal size of the group to target, you need to test your campaigns and run iterations. 

Ready For Target Ads?

Target ads are a very special form of PPC ads. They’re specific and aim toward a very particular group of people. Marketers select these groups on the basis of a number of factors. These include age, income, location, devices, behavior, purchase history and more. Target ads are cheaper and have a higher ROI than other types of ad campaigns. But they can be very complex as well. Conduct proper market research and study your audience before designing your target ad campaign. 

Did you run your own target ad campaign? How was it? Let us know in the comments below!

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