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The Ad Council

Leveraging Attitudinal Audience Targeting to Help The Ad Council Reach Vaccine Hesitant Americans

In early 2021, the Ad Council launched the “It’s Up To You” COVID-19 Vaccine Education Initiative. It was the nonprofit’s largest communications effort to date, aimed at equipping Americans hesitant about getting vaccinated against COVID-19 with the answers they need to make an informed decision for themselves and their families.

As vaccine availability grew, the Ad Council found that identifying and then targeting the right groups of people with its messaging was becoming a challenge as “open to COVID vaccines though still hesitant” was an attitude held by those in many different traditional socio-economic, age and ethnicity segments.

The challenge they faced was how to reach a target audience that was defined by an attitude rather than a behavior that could be tracked.

The Ad Council partnered with Big Village to improve the quality of the audience they were targeting and better differentiate the vaccine hesitant from other groups, as well as activate that message across the most effective media channels.

Leveraging unique targeting solutions, Big Village was able to seamlessly target and activate audiences across our SSP’s media supply. With survey-based validation, Big Village was able to quantify and better understand the shared characteristics of those hesitant about vaccines so that others sharing many of the same attitudinal traits could then be reached with messages.

This approach provided the Ad Council an end-to-end audience targeting strategy to more effectively identify the attitudinal characteristics shared by many of those hesitant to get vaccinate against COVID-19 regardless of ethnicity, age, political affiliation, or other factors.

Big Village’s integrated approach leveraging proprietary audience data and insights and our data connected marketplace provided a seamless ability to score both the current ad inventory supply the Ad Council was using, as well as the platforms delivering that supply, so the campaign didn’t have to rely on outside third parties to connect advertising inventories with the data. That meant that as the campaign moved forward, it could minimize serving ads to the 30%-40% of its original target audience who had already been vaccinated or had already made up their mind and didn’t want more information.

The Impact

Ultimately, Big Village segments proved more effective at identifying the desired target than most other tactics Ad Council experimented with.

Big Village’s targeting efficiency on mobile with respect to finding people who were speculative about COVID-19 vaccines was among the highest of all tactics (33% compared to 25% average)

At the same time, Big Village’s solution was more effective than most others at isolating and avoiding people who were flatly against getting vaccinated against COVID-19 (14% compared to 10% average)

By the tail end of “It’s Up To You,” the Ad Council had completely stopped targeting based on segments such as race/ethnicity and relied exclusively on the vaccine hesitant audiences to maximize engagement with this hard to quantify group.