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How to Find and Target Your Audience Online with a DSP


Are you looking for a new way to target your audience? Or perhaps you’ve recently gotten your hands on a new DSP? Maybe you’re a programmatic trader with many years of buying programmatic ads?

We know it can be challenging to find the right audience for your campaign. That’s why we created this completely free, super detailed guide, so you can learn everything about programmatic campaign audience targeting using a DSP.

Programmatic ad buying is complex. There are many factors to consider, which is why most advertisers use a programmatic media agency.

Whether or not you use an agency, this is still a valuable guide to understand how you can understand the back end of how audience targeting works in a DSP (Demand Side Platforms).

Start-up or market leader, this article applies principles that work across the board.

Our team of experts has put together all of the information that you need in one place, making it easy for you to understand what programmatic targeting is and how it works.

We share media agency planning and buying trade secrets with you to level up your online advertising campaigns. So now, there’s no reason not to start reaching out to more prospective customers using programmatic ads.

Demand Side Platforms - DSP - Programmatic Advertising 101 - Advant Technology -
Demand Side Platforms – DSP – Programmatic Advertising 101 – Advant Technology –

Note: this guide focuses on the options available in Google DV360, but the principles learnt here now apply to most major demand-side platforms:

Demand Side Platforms / Ad Tech DSPs

  • The Trade Desk
  • Mediamath
  • Tabmo by Hawk
  • Adform
  • Xander
  • Emmerse
  • Stackadapt
  • DataXu
  • Adform
  • Adelphic
  • Centro
  • Pocketmath
  • Oath
  • Adelphic by Viant
  • Amazon DSP
  • Adobe Advertising Cloud

Note: This guide to programmatic targeting applies to the main advertising formats that include display, native, instream (pre-roll & mid-roll) video, outstream video, audio advertising and connected TV, although there may be some targeting restrictions for audio and connected TV.

Audience targeting in Programmatic Increases Efficiency

The world of programmatic advertising is extensive and is predicted to be worth a total of $155billion in 2021.
There are trillions of available ad impressions every month through most major DSPs. Hence, as an advertiser, you need to make sure you’re using the right targeting strategy to narrow in on your target.

With so many ad impressions available, you could easily spend millions of dollars a day and still not hit the most likely audience to purchase your product. The programmatic ad industry is simply too big.

If you don’t target your audience effectively, your ad campaign is unlikely to resonate with your audience.

Now, suppose you’re going to invest in display advertising, native, video, programmatic audio or CTV (connected TV) campaigns.

Well, in that case, you need to understand how to reach your exact audience efficiently to maximize your ad spend, increase brand awareness effectively and drive more sales/conversions.

As you’ll see throughout this guide to targeting options in DSPs, the better your data is, the more targeted the bidding set up can be, and as a result, the more accurate you can be with your targeting leading to a better ROI.

Audience targeting is not an art form. It’s a data-driven way to increase the chances that your ad will convert by showing it to the right people.

You can do this by looking at their data and seeing which ad would work best for them.

Let’s look at how you can use audience targeting in your own campaign.

Questions to Ask to Define Your Target Audience - Programmatic Advertising 101 - Advant Technology
Questions to Ask to Define Your Target Audience – Programmatic Advertising 101 – Advant Technology

Define Your Target Audience

Think of a targeting strategy as a set of levers that you can push and pull to effectively reach the right audience. This audience targeting guide shows you the most important levers to push and pull within a DSP to deliver a well-targeted ad.

It goes without saying that before moving those levers, you need a clear understanding of your audience and their online behaviour.

Understanding your audience needs to go beyond the general demographics of your audience. You should ideally have a deep understanding of your audience behaviour. The following questions will help you to build that deep understanding.

  • What is your audience interested in?
  • What content does my audience read?
  • What websites does my audience visit?
  • What apps might have they installed?
  • What products does my audience buy?
  • What brands does my audience follow?
  • What hobbies does my audience enjoy?

Remember, you can have more than one target audience, especially if you have a company that offers multiple products.

Your primary audience will typically demand most of your budget and attention and yield the highest ROI as they are the most likely to convert.

Your secondary target audience is people with similar interests to your primary audience but slightly different characteristics. Your secondary target audiences are where you will be able to expand and test to scale your campaigns beyond the primary target audience. They may not convert as well or yield the same ROI.

Controlled experiments targeting specific secondary audiences should be conducted to see how they convert.

Efficient and effective digital media planning and buying require that you have a well-defined target audience. It will help you use all the targeting levers efficiently, ultimately resulting in better campaign results and a more substantial ROI.

Targeting Tactics

Before looking at the actual targeting options available in Google DV360 (levers), let’s take a moment to explore the basic types of audiences.

When looking at your audience strategy, we think it’s important to understand the context of the audience data you are applying and ask how accurate and reliable it is and how recent it is.
To answer this, you need to look at how the audience data was gathered. This isn’t always easy. Naturally, if the data is inaccurate, there will be little point in applying it in the DSP as part of your advertising campaign.

Let’s look at the three main types of audience data options:

First-Party Data

Data you own and manage from potential customers or your audience. It can come from your website or app, CRM and purchases. As this is your own data, it makes it the most valuable. The challenge with first-party data is reach, often restricted in both scale and breadth.

First Party Data

Second Party Data

Essentially this is someone else’s first-party data. Second-party data is basically sharing of first-party data.

For example, one of our clients works with another brand to do collaborative b2b campaigns. The other brand could share its data from their Data Management Platform (DMP) to the brands’ DSP.

Another example could be an airline sharing data with a Direct Marketing Organisation/Tourism Board. The DMO then targets that data segment with display ads for people travelling to competitive destinations.

Third-Party Data

Is generally aggregated data. It’s often inferred (implicit) data based on past behaviours.

Through the collection of interests, online browser behaviour, hobbies or preferences, third-party has a vast reach. The flip side is that third party data can often lack quality, reliability and accuracy. Third-party audiences are accessible through data management platforms such as Loatme, Krux and Liveramp.

Your audience strategy needs to take account of the complex factors at play, and you should develop an audience strategy using a mixture of relevant.

One of the reasons we like the Google DV360 platforms is the breadth of high-quality Google audiences. We regularly use Google audiences, and we find they perform very well. They are very accurate.

At Advant Technology, we help advertisers and clients develop a data strategy for targeting. We help them collect first-party data and identify third party data providers from the plethora of aggregators we have existing relationships with.

Relevant Messaging

It’d be remiss of us, an international programmatic agency, to create an article about audience targeting and not talk about relevant messaging, so make sure that your ad uses a message that will resonate! That isn’t covered in this guide but make sure you understand how the two need to work together.

OK, let’s begin with the actual detail.

DSP Targeting Options Explained

Language Targeting


DSP Language Targeting

Language targeting works based on targeting the individual bid requests defined by the publisher.

Language targeting can be useful where you might want to reach ex-pat communities, e.g. Greek people living in the UK.

It can also be helpful when you only have creative in one language but target multiple countries.

For example, you are a b2b company running a campaign in Germany. Your creatives are in English only; therefore, you only want to reach customers in Germany who speak English who will understand your creatives. Setting English language targeting to German IP addresses could be an effective strategy.

Geographic targeting (geo targeting)

Also known as location-based targeting or geo-targeting
This is one of the most basic principles when it comes to targeting. 99.9% of campaigns at Advant Technology have some sort of geo applied at least at the country level, given that most advertisers have a specific target country when running programmatic ads. We can refine this further than the county by targeting:

Region targeting

Allows you to target the user based on state, cities, postal codes, airports and universities.

Radius targeting

Allows you to target the user based on longitude and latitude.

Both Region and Radius allow you to bulk upload lat/long codes and allow for an inclusion and exclusion list.

You might be wondering why you would need to use exclusion lists? Exclusion lists can be a time-saving setting.

Let’s say you want to target all states bar the state of New York, California and Texas. Rather than selecting the 47 remaining states, you would target the US and exclude New York, California and Texas.

Exclusions can also be helpful if you see impressions slipping through from the wrong geo.

Let’s say, for example, you set the campaign to target only Spain, but on a geo impression report, impressions are coming from Sweden. This could be because the Content Distribution Network where your banner is hosted is in Sweden.

Putting an exclusion on Sweden could make sense, but generally speaking, as the impressions from the country not in the inclusion list are so few, and their cost is so negligible that it’s not really necessary.

This is generally considered a reporting anomaly and should be ignored.

Available Languages You Can Target

  • Arabic
  • Bengali
  • Bulgarian
  • Catalan
  • Chinese (simplified)
  • Chinese (traditional)
  • Croatian
  • Czech
  • Danish
  • Dutch
  • English
  • Estonian
  • Filipino
  • Finnish
  • French
  • German
  • Greek
  • Gujarati
  • Hebrew
  • Hindi
  • Hungarian
  • Icelandic
  • Indonesian
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Kannada
  • Korean
  • Latvian
  • Lithuanian
  • Malay
  • Malayalam
  • Marathi
  • Norwegian
  • Persian
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Punjabi
  • Romanian
  • Russian
  • Serbian
  • Slovak
  • Slovenian
  • Spanish
  • Swedish
  • Tamil
  • Telugu
  • Thai
  • Turkish
  • Ukrainian
  • Urdu
  • Vietnamese

Note that Google uses its own proprietary technology to decipher the language based on the user signals and content-based signals if the publisher didn’t declare the language of the content in the bid request.

Demographic Data Targeting


Along with geo-targeted ads, demographic targeting is considered one of the most important and most basic targeting settings.

  • Age

  • Male

  • Female

  • Or you can set it to unknown

  • Age

  • 18-65+

  • Or you can set it to unknown

  • Parental Status

  • Parent

  • Not a parent

  • Or you can set it to unknown

  • Household income

  • Top 10% – lower 50%

  • Or you can set it to unknown

The unknown options help expand your audience, which is often good practice if there is no downside. So, if, for example, your audience is both / female and male, then you should tick the unknown box, this allows you to expand your reach with no downside; the same applies to all of the demographic options.

Assume a scenario: Your target audience profile is 80% female; you may want to consider creating two line items, each with its own budget allocation. Consider the female market to be your core audience and allocate 80% of the budget and 20% to the male audience, or you could consider 100% of the budget if you have budget limitations.

There is no correct answer, but splitting your line item strategies makes sense if the splits are that extreme.

You can also use other levers to target specific content or publisher titles that lean toward females, such as gossip or a title like, which skews heavily to females. There are many ways to skin a cat.

Keyword Targeting / Contextual Targeting or “KCT”

Allows you to input several keywords related to your product or service or potentially your audience. Your ads can then appear against that content in a contextually relevant environment.

Keyword Contextual Targeting KCT works in different ways depending on the DSP. The DSP may use its own technology or that of a third party. In the case of Google DV360, it uses Google Search Technology, unquestionably the most intelligent search technology in the world.

It works if the keyword is relevant to the content on a specific URL of a publisher (or video metadata). Some DSPs work when the keyword appears on the page instead of being relevant to the page.

It takes a few days for Google and other contextual search ad technologies to reference content across the web and decipher what keywords are on the page or what the content is about. Therefore keyword contextual targeting does not work well with new content or a URL/ publisher page constantly updated.

Don’t just think of contextual keyword targeting as having to be contextual.
When we ran a global paid media campaign for Diadora, they wanted to target what they defined as “sneaker addicts”, essentially a youth sub-culture.

They provided us with an audience persona that consisted of interests such as hobbies, musicians, brands they follow etc. Using this info, we created a set of keywords that were not related to the product in a traditional sense (sneakers, trainers, footwear), but rather a set of keywords based on their interests (Hypebeast, Avicci, house music etc.).

Category Targeting

The following is a list of broad categories you can target using the Google DV360 platform; under each parent category is a subsection or multiple sub-sections.

  • Arts & Entertainment
  • Autos & Vehicles
  • Beauty & Fitness
  • Books & Literature
  • Business & Industrial
  • Computers & Electronics
  • Finance
  • Food & Drink
  • Games
  • Health
  • Hobbies & Leisure
  • Home & Garden
  • Internet & Telecom
  • Jobs & Education
  • Law & Government
  • News
  • Online Communities
  • People & Society
  • Pets & Animals
  • Real Estate
  • Reference
  • Science
  • Shopping
  • Sports
  • Travel
  • World Localities

Category targeting is broader than contextual targeting. The above list is similar to the IAB category list, available on other ad tech platforms such as Outbrain.

In our experience, category targeting produces some iffy results with ads appearing on domains that have very little to do with the category; therefore, it is advisable to layer the category with other levers unless you have a vast audience.

Category Targeting DV360 DSP

Environment Targeting

Environment targeting refers to whether or not you want to target web browser inventory or inventory served in mobile apps.

Whichever inventory environment you select, make sure your tracking supports this.

If you just want to target mobile web users, not inventory in apps, you’ll need a combination of targeting levers. You’ll need to ensure you have selected both mobile devices and web environments.

Bear in mind that if you do target just mobile web, this could slow down your ability to scale spending as most inventory on a mobile device is actually app inventory from ad exchanges like Mopub.

Top Tip
There is a myth that browser inventory is better quality than mobile app inventory. This is simply not true and has no foundation.

Environment Targeting Environment
Environment Targeting in DV360 DSP

Position Based Targeting

Position based targeting refers to where the ad is likely to be displayed on the devices’ screen.

This is important because logically, an ad in a more prominent position on the page, for example, above the fold and in-article (as opposed to right rail), is likely to have greater consumer attention.
Attention & time are essential! The longer the user looks or has the ad creative in view, the more likely they are to remember or take action, thus improving the ROI of your campaign.

Display & Native Position on Screen

Options include above the screen fold or below the screen fold.

Display & Native Inventory Position in Content

Options include:

  • In-article position, in-feed position, interstitial position, good old in-banner position or unknown position.
  • Display position options
  • Video position on screen
  • Options include above the screen fold or below the screen fold or unknown position.

Video Instream Position

Options include pre-roll position, mid-roll position and post-roll position.

Video Outstream Position

Options include:

  • In-article position
  • In-feed position
  • Interstitial position
  • In-banner position and unknown positions, in which the position is not declared or detected.

Positions explained

  • In-feed ads appear between paragraphs of content or potentially between images as you scroll down the page of a publisher.
  • In-banner ads often appear at the top, sides or potentially bottom of the page.
  • In-article ads should appear in between a paragraph, i.e. split the paragraph in two with the video creating the break

Bear in mind that if you do target just mobile web, this could slow down your ability to scale spending as most inventory on a mobile device is actually app inventory from ad exchanges like Mopub.

Top Tip
There is a myth that browser inventory is better quality than mobile app inventory. This is simply not true and has no foundation.

Position Based Targeting DSP
Position Based Targeting Demand Side Platform

Viewability Targeting

Options for viewability targeting are pretty straightforward in the Google DV360 DSP. It uses proprietary viewability technology called Active View, the same framework as the MRC viewability standard.

Options include:

  • 90% or greater (most viewable)
  • 80% or greater
  • 70% or greater
  • 60% or greater
  • 50% or greater
  • 40% or greater
  • 30% or greater
  • 20% or greater
  • 10% or greater
  • All impressions

For brand campaigns, we always recommend applying the greatest viewability.

You’ll want to run regular reporting to closely monitor the actual viewability, as Active view is only a predicted.

If you are not getting the reach required due to other campaign settings, you could consider loosening the viewability restrictions day by day until you find the right balance.

If the campaign is a quick burst and you have high spend and reach requirements from day one, it would probably make more sense to start with a low 10% viewability or no viewability requirement. As you gather data, you can slowly increase impressions daily; otherwise, you will risk not hitting reach/spend goals.

Active View (Google viewability Technology)

If you are using a different DSP to Google DV360, you will have other viewability options that could include: a 3rd party integration, typically MOAT or IAS, Integral Ad Science. Note, DV360 does have MOAT and IAS integrated as well.

Audience Lists

We’ve already covered audience lists that come in different flavours, including first, second, and third party, so we won’t cover them again.

You should note that you should use a combination of inclusion and exclusion lists that allow you to narrow in on users as they move down the funnel or have made a purchase to optimize the spend properly.

An example of this might exclude users who have already purchased from you.

Custom Audience segmentation

One area we haven’t touched on yet is custom audiences. You have two options custom affinity and custom intent.

Custom Affinity

You can create custom affinity audiences using interests, URLs and Apps.
Custom affinity audiences work well for branding. For performance-driven campaigns, you should look at custom intent audiences.

Custom Intent

You can create a custom intent audience using keywords and URLs.

Audience List Targeting DSP
How To Select Audience List Targeting in DV360 DSP

Day & Time Part Targeting

If you believe certain times of the week are likely to work better for your campaign, you should apply day and time targeting.

If you are a b2b marketer, consider only displaying messages during or close to working hours. Your audience may be more interested in interacting with your message during working hours.

Day & Time Targeting DSP
Leverage Day & Time Targeting in a DSP

Browser Targeting

Browser targeting allows you to target different browsers.
Example use cases of using browser targeting
If you promote software for Windows devices, you may create different targeting strategies for Microsoft Internet explorer vs Chrome.

Browser Targeting in a DSP
Browser Targeting in a DSP

Device Targeting

Device targeting allows you to target desktop computers (notebooks and laptops), smartphones, tablets, and connected TV devices.

You can select a specific device and the operating system using advanced settings. A quick search for iPhone brings up several versions of the iPhone you can target.

Device Mobile Desktop Taregting
Targeting Mobile, Tablet or Desktop Devices

Connection Speed Targeting

Connection speed targeting allows you to target users based on their internet connection speed. We tend not to use connection speed targeting. If you are a telco company selling ISP services, this could be a handy option, but it is rather niche.

Connection Speed DSP Targeting
Targeting by Connection Speed

Carrier & ISP

Carrier & ISP targeting allows you to target users based on their carrier or ISP.

Also, quite a niche targeting option that is rarely utilized unless you are a carrier and ISP looking to sell ISP. There are hundreds of options available due to the massive number available globally.



If you are a marketer, DSPs provide an opportunity for you to leverage new technologies and tools to create more effective campaigns.

By considering the different targeting options available within a programmatic (DSP) such as Google DV360, advertisers can optimize their digital marketing strategies by reaching the right audience at the right time with the right message.

Regardless of how you use the approaches described above, a targeted advertising campaign will almost always outperform an un-targeted one.

If you would like a tailored strategy by an expert programmatic media agency, then contact Advant Technology for more information on how we might be able to help you with your next programmatic buying campaign.

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