January 25, 2021

Interest vs. Intent in Digital Advertising

Online Advertising — Intent vs Interest

  • Intent-based (search) vs. interest-based (social) advertising
  • Evolution of Facebook’s targeted ad platform
  • Custom Social’s solution. Hyper interest-based targeting

The Online Explosion of Invasive, Disruptive and Irrelevant Ads on the Open Web.

Let’s face it, we’ve all grown tired of the online ad blitz—the never-ending onslaught of constant clutter and our nascent efforts to click out of or scroll past these ubiquitous calls to action that clog our collective online experience. At least with cable television, we can watch our favorite shows on demand or record them with the DVR and replay later, fast-forwarding through the commercials.  But spend 20 mins surfing the “open web” or your favorite websites and you will see the clutter and confusing ads that have prompted new privacy controls and a mass migration to the walled gardens where users are signed in. 

As users are now spending all their time in places where they are signed in, like Facebook, Instagram, Spotify, and gaming apps, the advertising models have changed, hopefully for the better.  Rather than have ads chase you around the web, advertisers are able to target ads based on interest and intent in very powerful ways.  


Interest vs. Intent

There are two modes for reaching a consumer with advertising in this new world, intent ads and interest based advertising.  The best example of intent based advertising is search engines such as Google or DuckDuckGo, reaching the consumer at the exact point of decision making when they intend to buy.  For example, if your looking for a flight to Boston on Friday you will probably go to Google and type in “flight to boston” and see your options, choose and book.   The travel advertiser is reaching you at the moment you are deciding.  This is intent based advertising 

Users on social platforms are in a different mode of consumption: rather than searching for a specific product or service, they are passively consuming content that is relevant to them.  Think of social as window shopping where the advertiser has the ability to place just the right window full of goods in front of the right consumer based on the things that consumer likes, consumers, reads and loves.  That is interest based advertising.  

To summarize: 

  • Intent = Search. People are searching for something specific and the advertiser is able to reach the consumer at the point of decision.  .Travel, health, insurance, legal, gym memberships and many other categories are great for search. 
  • Interest = Social. Ad content is served up in context based upon people’s likes and interests, literally the things the read, love, care about the things their friends and families read, love and care about.. Health, beauty, wellness, lifestyle, apparel brands work really well in these environments where the consumer is in discovery mode, they way you might be strolling down a street in Paris window shopping.  

Understanding the difference between intent and interest based targeting is critical to choosing the right platform and advertising strategy for your brand.  The first step is to decide to move away from the open web to walled gardens where you as the brand owner are able to target real users based on their purchase intent or their consumer profile (interests).  Then, ask yourself, is my product something that consumers will actively seek out or is it the type of product consumers will want to discover.  From there, apply your budgets and consider using a company like Custom Social which employs machine learning and automated technology to show ads to consumers on social media based on their interests.  

Related posts