36782 Digital Targeting for Priority Youth & Young Adult Populations

Tyler Janzen, BA1, Joseph Smyser, PhD, MSPH1 and Jeffrey W. Jordan, MA2, 1Rescue Social Change Group, San Diego, CA, 2President, Rescue Social Change Group, San Diego, CA


In a time when funding for public health initiatives is limited, we need to make every dollar spent on campaign promotion count. This means ensuring that we using new technologies and digital tools to reach audiences in a highly targeted and strategic manner rather than wasting money on channels that reach those outside of the target population. Digital advertising today is extremely effective at targeting people based on a mix of demographic, geographic, and interest-based information. This type of granular targeting aligns well with behavior change interventions that rely on carefully segmenting youth and young adult target populations to deliver culturally-relevant interventions. The same insights that are used to develop campaign messages and creative to ensure the intervention is authentic to the audience allow us to develop highly targeted digital campaigns that make use of small advertising budgets to reach only those who are the target of the intervention.

Program background:  Using formative research to identify insights about each target audience, we were able to develop digital campaigns that align with each audience’s values, interests, and attitudes. By developing digital content that aligns with the audience’s values and in some instances planning a highly targeted digital advertising buy and A/B testing multiple ad formats and content, we reached priority high-risk populations with culturally-relevant and authentic tobacco-free messages.

Evaluation Methods and Results: By effectively targeting each audience using a variety of social media advertising platforms, we reached high-risk Country teens, LGBT teens and young adults, and young adult partiers in a highly cost-effective manner. For an ad spend of $3,070, our video targeting country teens was viewed 30,531 times and our ads received 94 click-thrus. Another campaign targeting high-risk young adult partiers included a video that was viewed 26,816 times after being supported by a small ad buy of $1,847 that received 47 clicks. The campaign also included a Facebook and Twitter ad buy that promoted an interactive quiz that educated the audience about a variety of tobacco prevention messages. Finally, two separate videos targeting LGBT youth and young adults received a combined total of more than 1 million views without any ad buy. These final videos are examples of developing highly relevant content and promoting them through blogs rather than spending any money on digital advertising.


Digital content that is culturally-relevant to the target audience and systematically targeted to them and tested using digital ad platforms can effectively reach and engage youth and young adults with tobacco-prevention messages in a more cost-effective manner than other less targeted advertising methods.

Implications for research and/or practice: 

Youth and young adult tobacco prevention campaigns should use culturally-relevant content that aligns with the audience’s values. This content should be promoted to the audience using targeted digital ad placements and blogging platforms based on demographic, geographic, and interest-based criteria.