4 Tips for Advertising in Special Ad Categories

The primary advantage that digital marketing has over any other medium is its targeting capabilities. Refining your target audience to include granular details means you’re using your ad budget efficiently, and not wasting impressions on those who are unlikely to become a consumer of your product or service.

Here’s a background on what I’ll refer to (like Facebook calls them)  as ‘special categories.’ These are ad types that must be shown to a wider audience, as the potential for discriminatory targeting has become more of a concern in recent years. For example, an advertiser cannot target low-income audiences with an ad for “easy approval credit,” nor can you run ads for luxury apartments among high-earning groups only. Another major category these policies impact is hiring. Employment-focused ads may not be targeted based on age, income, racial status, or any other inherent trait.

The struggle to find the right audience when running a ‘special category’ campaign is a challenge, but it can be done. Here are a few tips to help:


1. Strategize Your Geography

The most effective tool to target geographically is list of zip codes. This allows you to get into the areas of a city that has the highest concentration of the customers you’re looking to find during your campaign. With special category ads, this option is off the table.

Because opportunities may be limited depending on the zip code in which someone lives, anti-discrimination policies require advertisers to use slightly larger parameters. For example, if you want to run an ad promoting mortgage loan offerings (which falls under the housing category), you can only target by city or congressional district. Note that “city” does not just mean a major metropolitan area. With this in mind, it’s crucial to include the right ‘cities’ in your targeting in order to find the best audience for your ad.

If you think interest in your campaign might be higher in one city or another – for any number of reasons – serve your ads only in that area. This will require some background research prior to launch, but should be more than worth it in the end.

2. Interest Targeting Still Applies

It’s obvious why ad platforms limit targeting for a category like employment or housing. Equal access is something everyone can agree on, but the reality is not everyone is going to be part of a relevant audience. Though you can’t target based on age or gender, most platforms will allow some type of interest-based targeting to help you find the right people.

For example, if you’re running real estate ads you can utilize things like first-time buyer, property manager, house hunting, real estate investments, and many more “interests” to help refine your audience. Once you’ve input as many interests as you can think of, let the platform help you round out your list. Facebook has a “browse suggestions” option which means it will give you a chance to include even more interests that you may not have known existed. Let the platform help you out by listening to their recommendations – if there’s one thing we’ve learned about ad platform algorithms, it’s that they know how to find the right audience better than humans do.

When interest-based targeting is the best you can do, you have to get creative with your terms. Even if your options are suboptimal, it’s much better than wasting impressions entirely.

3. Use Retargeting

As long as your website doesn’t block access to people based on their personal characteristics, retargeting can be hugely effective in targeting for a special category campaign. All digital marketers know that retargeting – serving ads to people who have interacted with your content or visited your website – is extremely beneficial in moving users along in the conversion process. This should be part of your routine on every ad, but when typical targeting parameters are unavailable, it becomes even more important.

It’s rare that someone will go from a complete stranger to a paying customer after seeing your brand’s ad once (or even twice), but a website visit and subsequent ad on social media goes a long way in creating true brand awareness. If you’re on social media, be sure that you’re retargeting not just website visitors, but also followers of your page or anyone who has recently interacted with your content. For Google advertisers, Tag Manager allows you to focus in on prior web visitors. Although you might notice your overall number of impressions dropping slightly, you know they’re much higher quality than if you were serving ads to everyone and anyone.

4. Consider Different Platforms

When it comes to ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions for digital advertising, Google and Facebook are typically the safest bets in terms of being effective for the widest range of industries. That is, just about everyone uses Google and has a Facebook (which includes Instagram) profile. With that being said, there are situations when it might be best to run a campaign on a more specialized platform.

If your business is looking to hire new employees – especially in management positions, it’s hard to beat LinkedIn. Not only can you get more specific in your targeting details on LinkedIn, but you know that everyone who sees your ad is in a business mindset simply by the fact that they’re on the platform in the first place. If you’re advertising for something that would fall under the “housing” category, Zillow or Realtor.com might be a better option than the traditional social media platforms.

Digital advertising success starts with careful planning to make sure that your ads are going to the right people. When you choose a specialized platform like those listed above, you know you’ll be minimizing wasted impressions just by the fact that your audience is already tuned into the types of products or services you’re selling.


Wrapping Up

Just keeping up with the latest policies in the world of digital advertising can be a challenge. If your business could benefit from a consultation or assistance in executing strategies that find the audiences you’re after, get in touch today and we’ll find solutions that work for your budget.