pretty openIt is such a cliché: Don't just present data, tell a story.

Yet it is rarely followed.

We almost always present data.

Actually we don't present data, we send out reports. With data. Lots of it. With 6 size font and some pies and stacked bar graphs thrown in.

Then we are frustrated that no one seems to pat us on the back, sing songs in our glory, give us more money.

We don't truly tell stories because it seems like a lot of work. And it can be. But you'll be surprised at how often it is simply a matter of framing things differently, letting your imagination roam free.

Last month I had to present to a group of executives in New York. One of the key things I wanted to communicate was the power of not doing random advertising but rather using freely available data to target the advertising on sites where relevant audiences exist.

Goals Summary:

1. Show the power of free tools available. [Google's Ad Planner specifically.]

2. Highlight the importance spending money on advertising to relevant audiences.

3. Tell a memorable story.

Below is how I did it. . . . hopefully it will inspire you to look for stories in your data, stories that will hold interest and might even get you some smiles (and you know that a raise is not far behind!).

My first step was to try and tap into current events / pop culture. That calls for some research. I use Google Insights for Search as the best way to get a pulse on what people find interesting.

Specifically what I often do is run this query: Who are the most popular celebrities in New York in the last 30 days?

google insights for search new york celebrities

Turns out it is someone called Kim Kardashian. It also turns out I have no idea who this person is, an unfortunate side effect of not have time to watch television.

Quick Google search and I am caught up on why Ms. Kardashian is "famous". She has some overlap with Paris Hilton in terms of the path to fame.

The key ingredient for any story is to have interesting protagonists. For this story due to their popularity it will be Ms. Hilton and Ms. Kardashian.

The plot: Your business has a need to market something related to Ms. Hilton and Ms. Kardashian, a perfume or a clothing line or a cd/dvd. Amongst other things you'll want to make use of display advertising (banners / widgets etc).

How do you figure out who the right audience is, and where you'll find them? As opposed to of course buying the main banner spot on were your ad might be a hit or a miss.

Tools for doing audience segmentation were quite expensive until recently. Google's Ad Planner is free and makes this valuable data democratic. You can segment by demographic (age, education, income, gender etc) and psychographic (Extreme Sports Fan, Film Buffs, Fantasy/Comic Book Readers etc) data.

Perhaps its most cool feature is the marriage between all the above data with Google's search data.

That's where the analysis starts.

Question: What are the websites that are visited by people who have searched for the keywords "paris hilton" and "kim kardashian"?

Here's the answer:

google ad planner analysis paris hilton kim kardashian sm

[Click on the image for a higher resolution version.]

Notice the I have typed the keywords on the bottom left. In the right frame are the sites that are visited by those who searched for those two terms. Some obvious sites, many surprises (good thing, now we know!).

I have a habit of sorting by Comp Index, just to check out concentration of the audience. For example a comp index of 990 means that you are approximately nine time as likely to find the same audience (paris, kim searchers) on

If you look at the higher resolution version (click on the image) you'll easily find out how many page views are on the target site, what kind of advertising they accept, ad impressions/day and other data you need to create a media plan.

So far so good.

I have always believed that Men are more interested in the kinds of stories and "entertainment" value that Ms. Hilton and Ms. Kardashian generate.

The nice thing is I can validate that hypothesis. I simply open the Gender option in the left panel and choose Male.

paris kim male audience analysis

You are looking at the top part of the segmentation panel. Notice the delta between UV (users) between the overall segment and just the Males.

Turns out I was not totally right. Males make up a bit less than half of the audience.

No worries. They are still a lot bigger than what many people think (and it is wrong to think it is overwhelmingly female).

My next believe, perhaps controversial, is that older males are more interested in Ms. Hilton and Ms. Kardashian than younger males. Now this seems odd because Ms. Hilton and Ms. Kardashian seem to be more cool and hip and more of a young generation cup of tea.

Well we can test my hypothesis, in addition to Gender I can also choose Age. . .

paris kim male young old analysis

This data is still just for people, in this case Males, who searched for the key words paris hilton and kim kardashian.

It might have been a odd thing to say but it seems that 45 and older males are a lot more interested in Ms. Hilton and Ms. Kardashian. By almost two to one.


: )

Let's prep for the punch line of this story.

I have identified a audience that is of value to my goal, marketing Ms. Hilton and Ms. Kardashian (or things connected to them).

I want to target the top end of this audience, Males 55 and older, how many of them are there and where can I find them (to ensure my advertising will be relevant for this audience and my ad dollars are spent wisely)?

Here you go. . .

google ad planner older males paris hilton kim kardashian sm

[Please click on the image for a higher resolution version.]

How about now… surprised?

I was.

The top sites listed for this audience (older Males interested in Ms. Hilton and Ms. Kardashian) turns out to be bedrock sites, typically, for Republicans and the Conservative movement! Starting with a Comp Index of 1700 for Other sites:,,,, and

Not in my wildest dreams would have I have expected that this audience would be so highly correlated with actual searches done for Ms. Hilton and Ms. Kardashian. It seems odd with the conservative moral values espoused.

Very Important: I am not judging them. To each unto his / her own.

For my marketing campaign one more valuable nugget of insight is in th above data (click above for higher resolution). Turns out they are also very rich. Note the prominent appearance of,, and

So a bumper crop: right audience, lots of money to spend. That's hot!

Now I have to go execute the campaign and I know where to target my ads, how many impressions/day I can expect and how many people I can hope to target.

Relevant audiences change with seasons, hot trends, shifting preferences. Repeat the analysis to ensure you have the most current data.

End of story.

Closing Thoughts:

    Turns out this was a very effective story to tell, most people in the room were media buyers (especially offline).

    They were impressed with the kind of data we have online, and how easily accessible it was.

    They will never forget how wrong one can be about who the relevant audience might be (it would be impossible to guess the Weekly Standard, Rush Limbaugh audience might have any interest in Ms. Hilton or Ms. Kardashian).

Data Wins.

Ok its your turn now.

When you present data how do you tell your stories? How easy or hard is it? Got a favorite story to share with us?

What did you think of the above story? Methodology or conclusions? What did you link? What did I miss?

I would love to hear from you. Thanks much.

Couple other related posts you might find interesting:

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