Targeting Mac Users in Online Ads

My last post here interviewing Jean MacDonald, and a conversation with Seth Dilingham, who is cooking up a project that is related to Macs and marketing, got me thinking about a frustration I have had for a while, in that none of the major advertising networks allow you to only show your advertisements to people using Macs.

targettingIf you are going to be showing an ad for your product, and it costs money to put that ad in front of people, clearly you want to target people as specifically as you can. So if you have a local business, you want only the people in your geographic region to be exposed to the ad.  If your product only appeals to people who speak a certain language, you want to restrict your ad to only viewers who have that as their browser's preferred language. If your product is only sold in certain countries, you would be wasting your money (and people's attention) if your ad was visible outside of those countries.

And if your product only worked on Macs, you would want to only show your ads to Mac users, right?

That information — what kind of computer and what kind of browser you are using — is available to the advertising networks, as easy to access as the user's preferred language or location.  And yet none of the major ad networks like Google, Facebook, or Yahoo seem to allow you to target your ads by this particular information.

FacebookAdThere are workarounds, as Ms. MacDonald mentioned — you can mention "Mac" in the ad text itself, and tie the ad to queries related to the Mac. That's a start, and perhaps that's good enough for some, but it's not good enough for us! In the tests I did with Facebook ads (see the example here), the ad was very clear about being a Mac product and it was targeted only to people who were members of Mac communities.  However over half the clicks came from non-Macs. Was it click fraud? Mac users who were at work on their PC?  PC users who weren't capable of understanding? Who knows. But it certainly wasn't cost-effective for us.


I don't have the measurements from the Google AdWords I tried a couple of years ago, but I recall that it was similarly disappointing.

So maybe you are thinking that it's just the cost of doing business — think of it is a 100% cost surcharge if only half the visitors are actually qualified Mac users.  But there are a couple of other issues.

First of all, the person searching may not be thinking about the fact that they are on a Mac, and need to put that into their query string.  For example, somebody searching for a website-building solution might just search for "website builder."  That query returns all kinds of organic search results and advertisements for hosting providers, online website building systems, consultants, and so forth. It would financial suicide to for a Mac-only program to advertise on such general terms.  But if the advertiser could specify that they will show their ad only to people using a Mac, it might be worthwhile.

Another problem is targeting by interest, which Facebook does have. That's a start; you can put your ad in front of people who have something related to Macs in their profile. But the problem is you are missing the many, many Mac users who aren't Mac enthusiasts, to join some sort of Mac group on Facebook. If we could advertise to potentially everybody using a Mac (and only a Mac) not just those who are into the Mac, campaigns would probably be a lot more effective — especially if you could then combine your targeting with somebody's nontechnical interest, such as recipe/cooking software for people who are into cooking.

If you agree that it would be helpful for you, and financially beneficial for the advertising networks, if they were to support browser information segmenting along with all of their other segmenting controls, why not leave some feedback with them? If you create a Google AdWords account there is a "Send Feedback" link up top. I didn't find an easy way to leave feedback for Yahoo's search marketing team.  Facebook Ads has a "Contact our Sales Team" link at the bottom, or if you have an ads account, you can leave them feedback from a link at the top of the page.

Perhaps if enough Mac software companies contact them and express interest in advertising if they are able to segment by the browser/operating system, they will get a clue and make it a reality.

(Know of any general-purpose advertising networks — that allow segmenting by visitor's operating system? Let me know in the comments!)

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