• Publisher Strategies

What is Audience Extension & How Does It Work?

Last updated on Jan 20, 2023

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What is Audience Extension & How Does It Work?

Ever wonder what that popup message was on the website you were browsing? It most likely asked if you would “accept cookies” and you’d click yes, without really knowing what it meant? In short, the answer to this question is audience extension. 

cwAs soon as you click accept to those “cookies”, essentially you are helping online publishers make a profit by accepting a third-party advertising company to collect the site’s data and specifically your information, as being a part of the site’s audience. 

The world has been becoming increasingly digital since the start of 2023 and this has been a great way for advertisers to extend their reach and promote content that’s favored by the audience, in a time when the market has become very competitive. 

Table of Content

  1. What is Audience Extension?
  2. How Does Audience Extension Work?
  3. Audience Extension vs Retargeting
  4. Audience Extension For Publishers
  5. Learn How Different Audience Extension Approaches for Marketers
  6. Audience Extension Best Practices
  7. Example of Audience Extension
  8. Concerns with Audience Extension
  9. Conclusion

What is Audience Extension?

The actual audience extension definition can be stated as the process in which publishers offer help and opportunities for advertisers to target their audience beyond just their website’s gained data, using digital technology. Whether from a website or app, publishers collected data will be given to an advertiser to then target the same group of users across different channels. This can overall help advertisers by targeting users located in the same regions, or consumers searching for the same products and services through in-depth data on users’ history information and data.

Advertisers in this approach would be paying publishers for giving them extended data with hopes that the advertisers themselves would make a great ROI; making it a win-win situation for both parties.

In more recent years, this advertising strategy has grown from its initial use with only one advertiser and one publisher being able to have a relationship and exchange data. As of 2023, there are numerous programmatic media buying tools and platforms that can allow publishers to have numerous business relations with advertisers all at the same time.

How Does Audience Extension Work?

Audience extension focuses on the quality of consumers to advertising to instead of the number of people an ad can reach. Publishers offering different data packages to marketers will allow these agencies to extend their audience reach to valuable consumers that would be interested in their products in comparison to just a large non-targeted audience. 

The packages or offers that a publisher can offer an advertiser is essentially a target audience outside of the publisher’s website. The publisher will sometimes include identity data on consumers in these packages or DMP (data management platforms), such as the search history of a consumer that had visited the publisher’s site that day, or the website browsing behavior of a consumer. 

Marketers now using this data can promote specific advertisements across the web whether it be on social media platforms or other brands’ sites the advertiser is working with to reach these consumers and display relevant ads; resulting in an extended audience. 

Audience Extension vs Retargeting

Retargeting is the act of reaching consumers that have visited your site or app, have not bought anything, and recatching the user’s eye with targeted ads displayed across different platforms and advertising spots. 

The difference between audience extension and retargeting is that AE is directed more towards advertisers and growing their visibility and revenue compared to retargeting where the publisher or retail brand is likely to utilize this strategy to attract people back onto their own site. When advertisers use audience extension, they are not driving consumers back to the website they had originally visited but advertising new sites and apps that have similar attributes to the site the audience was initially on. 

Audience Extension For Publishers

As the use of audience extension rises in 2023, publishers will need to learn how to set up this service and pitch it to advertisers. This approach is a great way to increase revenue for publishers without much effort once the campaign is set up, but what this group does need to know is that they’ll need to set up a team to specifically tackle this technology.

1. Manager

A publisher will need a manager to oversee the audience extension campaign from start to finish. This person will ultimately be responsible for the overall end product and success of the service.

2. Data Analyst

A data analyst will be a crucial member of the campaign team as this person is responsible for sifting through data and recognizing what an advertiser would find valuable or not.

3. Ops Professional

The position of the ops professional will be able to take valuable data given by the data analyst and create a package that an advertiser will be able to understand. 

4. Salesperson

The salesperson will be in charge of successfully presenting the campaign to marketers and explaining why exactly an audience extension could be useful to their own company’s reach.

Learn How Different Audience Extension Approaches for Marketers

There are several data platform packages or audience segments that advertisers can purchase to help with their own targeting and outreach. When choosing which package may benefit the advertising purpose best it’s important to be properly informed, this is why we have compiled several different package topics and what they include: 

Website Engagement - Publishers being able to provide advertisers with consumer behavior on their site will help marketers better understand what the audience is exactly looking for. All of this will depend on the time users spend on a page, specific items they click on, or certain products they add to their carts. Let’s say you have a tech client, having a DMP on consumers' habits when purchasing a smartphone, and spending some time browsing through phone accessory pages, you can start to show that specific audience phone cases, earphones, and chargers in hopes of gaining their interest on different platforms whether it be social media or online sites.

Device Type - Depending on whether consumers are browsing on an app on their mobile device or a website on their desktop can direct advertisers to show different ads depending on the device type. Ads are specifically designed for each device; this is an important factor for advertisers to be aware of while presenting products and services to consumers.

AIB Content Categories - Created by AIB, audience extension packages can classify products consumers are interested in and label them to a specific category. AIB content categories can help advertisers stay on track with a consistent brand voice and pitch products and services to the correct target group. For example, consumers searching for BMW automobiles means that the product most likely fits into the luxury category, which advertisers can then utilize and start displaying high-end luxury vehicles to these consumers. 

Consumer Descriptions - Data being able to define consumers into specific groups such as location, age, and gender, can give advertisers a great niche audience to start directing products and services to.          

Overall, depending on the different packages publishers offer will depend on the amount of data and the quality of data given. As a marketer, your company should have a mindset of intended audiences that you are wanting to target and search for audience extension packages from there. 

Audience Extension Best Practices

From the above approaches, suggestions on how to utilize this information in your own advertising strategy are mentioned below: 

  • Through data collected on consumer website engagement, you can focus on directing relevant ads to consumers from web pages they spent a significant amount of time on. Whatever the topic of that web page was, will be the leading factor in which ads you end up displaying to this audience or vice versa. 
  • As a marketer, you can use customers’ preferred device type to group audiences and send ads precisely made for each exact device type. Not all ad dimensions are the same just as not all device screens are, so this approach will help you place advertisements seamlessly into those desired areas.
  • Assigning a category to a consumer through the use of AIB content categories is a great way to send quality ads to the right audience. 
  • As an advertiser, using consumer descriptions will help create a specific and relevant group to target ads on. You’ll be able to learn different behaviors of consumers of all types, in turn, giving you more knowledge to create and place successful ads.

The best practices of audience extension come from constant change and the enthusiasm to learn and interpret data given by publishers. Taking this into account as a marketer or advertiser, consumer data and behavior will always be constantly changing, so it’s important to allow stay on top of new DMPs publisher's offer. 

Example of Audience Extension

An example of successful audience extension is the University of California, Berkeley using a marketing agency to target a specific audience to reach quality consumers. The marketer had used a DMP given by a college-search publisher to then attract a relevant audience into applying for the university. The DMP could have included a specific age range, gender, location, and categories that these users were specifically looking into such as space science labs and mathematical science research, similar to UC’s own offerings, for marketers to then send ads to. 

Concerns with Audience Extension

Along with the benefits that come along with audience extension for publishers and advertisers, comes consumer concerns about privacy issues. Users want the right to withhold their own information, however, the technology of audience extension interferes with this by breaching a customer’s search history and behavioral habits for commercial use. 

In response to this concern, regulations have been set up, allowing users to choose not to accept “cookies” when using an app or browsing a site. This popup also keeps publishers and advertisers safe from any suspicious data-collecting, letting the user choose to accept cookies before any information is collected.


In conclusion, advertisers should seriously be considering the use of audience extension to improve and extend their target audience and know where to exactly place their ads for optimal effects. 2023 is the time for digital adoption, as tech and online use grow, audience extension campaigns will give both publishers and marketers great benefits.

This article is a guest post by the digital marketing agency Aumcore

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Hannah O’Brien
Hannah O’Brien
Hannah O’Brien writes for the digital marketing agency Aumcore, which specializes in generating the prime digital experience paired with a top-notch content marketing plan.

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