Think programmatic and you often think scale. Many people’s experience of programmatic is as a broad, consumer-centric platform. And it’s true that it allows reach, and allows that cost effectively.

But there has always been a large element of programmatic that is niche. Both at the start and end of the process and at the point of conversion. And this is where its true potential lies.

Niche at the end of the funnel

Think about classic re-targeting, for example. Take a user who has spent time researching a flight but not completed the booking. In this case, the niche targeting is that the re-targeted ad is served specifically against that user and what he/she has done (where is the flight from and to and what class? What are the travel dates?) The size of each audience being targeted is relatively small (such as the advert aimed at people looking to fly from Gatwick to Faro).

This approach involves taking a large-scale campaign and incorporating niche at the bottom of the funnel, close to the point a user converts or buys the product or service.

Niche as the starting point

But the real beauty of programmatic is that you can actually start selectively, pinpointing the audience you need at the beginning of a campaign. That suddenly means clients who have previously shunned digital marketing or struggled to see its relevance can now use it to match their marketing needs.

The start point is ensuring your niche target is meaningful enough to create a campaign that will deliver results through programmatic. But very often this is something that can be achieved in collaboration.

A campaign targeting only C-level executives in Finance in companies with at least 1000+ employees in central London is likely to be unrealistic. It’s so targeted there are better ways to execute (well executed direct mail to an audience of a few hundred has been shown to work time and again). Similarly, we’ve had experience of a business only wanting to target people at one company at one site. The use of a few carefully targeted out of home buys would work better than most other tactics here.

But when there is a niche that has some element of scale to it, suddenly the use of (tried, tested and reliable) data can make programmatic an incredibly attractive and effective proposition.

Key audiences that can be targeted effectively

Classic niches that offer scale include IT decision makers in companies with at least 500 employees; C-level executives across mid to large enterprises; business owners at small and mid sized companies or Heads of Finance across the manufacturing, retail and public sector.

And it’s not limited to business-to-business interactions. The luxury sector often speaks to a select audience – such as those interested in luxury retreats or fine watches and jewellery. We do this through Elite. The potential audience is relatively small (compared to the internet population) but programmatic allows accurate data segments to be built to address only the audience that it truly relevant to brands in this space.

The sheer amount of opportunities to serve good advertising to users in digital allows this niche approach to have some scale. And given how many online ads are delivered to each and every one of us each day, you have the opportunity to generate impact against a select audience. It creates brand uplift and delivers results.

It’s also worth noting that although we’re targeting with up to 4,000 online ads daily across laptops, smartphones and tablets (figures from MediaPost) the number that are potentially seen (or viewable, to use the industry term) is far lower. Around half of all ads are viewable, the other half sit somewhere at the bottom of a page and won’t be seen unless the user scrolls.

Relevancy makes the possibility a reality 

Relevancy is also a key benefit. Niche targeting also allows for better investment in selective creative. If you know you can refine your audience, you can also use creative that only truly speaks to that exact target. And for many clients, they can separate their target audience even further.

A campaign targeting Intuitional Investors can and should be very different from messaging to Private Investors, and a campaign targeting new parents interested in an SUV may work better with a specific creative over recently retirees looking at an SUV. Programmatic makes this possibility a reality.

By identifying and reaching a specific audience effectively, programmatic can make online advertising even more relevant, highly targeted and impactful. Far from narrowing the opportunity, taking a niche approach to programmatic actually opens the door for the channel to be used for many more marketers and brands.

Daniel Shaw

Daniel Shaw


Daniel Shaw, Founder, Encore Digital Media