Unlike theatrical audiences, who pay money and make a conscious decision to invest their time in something, the online audience is very different.
Mostly, it’s people (well, actually bots) that have kind of stumbled on your site/app/whatever and are desperately trying to get to where they intended to go, before the boss catches them.
Targeting “audiences” in the digital world is therefore not as precise as we’ve been led to believe. And it’s mostly a waste of time.
In reality you have to make sure you’re running in the media that’s used by people who are in the market for your category–or who might be in the market for your category. This sounds inefficient but the first step toward buying a product is making a small decision to decide that you’re in the category. There is no such thing as an audience of ready-to-buy people out there. Just bots that are ready to click.
That first decision to enter the category is the reason why “top of the funnel” activity (hate that term) or brand spend (also lousy) is important. Here’s a good article by Gee Ranasinha on why getting attention and, therefore ubiquity, is important.
Takeaway: Remember that your customers are just temporarily your customers. They’re really somebody else’s who just happened to buy your stuff. “Audiences” in the online world are even more fleeting than customers and are definitely not the same as real audiences. Segment your market, find potential buyers in your category, advertise to them. And win.