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Tunnl | Audiences

What–and How Long–Does it Take to Build a Custom Audience with Tunnl?

March 17th, 2023 | 8 min. read

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You’re eager to reach the specific group of people who care about your message, but that’s easier said than done. And instead of lengthy trial and error over months of unsatisfying campaigns, you know there’s a better way. 

The microtargeting pioneers who founded Tunnl agreed that connecting your campaigns to the right people is critical and should be easier. Custom audiences from Tunnl are an efficient, effective way to eliminate guesswork from your targeting efforts and get straight to the ideal audience for your brand or cause. 

But how long will it take to build a bespoke audience and start targeting them on your preferred platforms? The answer is “it depends,” but we’ll walk you through what you can typically expect from the process, factors that extend it, and what you can do to accelerate a custom audience build. 

What is Tunnl’s Typical Timeframe for Creating Custom Audiences? 

On average, it takes 4-6 weeks to receive your custom audience after you kick off with Tunnl. Let’s break down what’s happening at each process stage: the information-gathering phase, the data-collection and audience-building phase, and the packaging phase.

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What happens during the information-gathering phase?

Before you ever sign on to build a custom audience with Tunnl, you can expect significant information exchanges between your team and ours. That’s how we guarantee that a custom audience is the best solution for your campaign goals. This info swap continues in the first days of your custom audience-building process. 

“There are assets you may have from past campaigns that can help us build your custom audience,” says Elise Katz, Tunnl’s Senior Director of Account Management.  “Have you done polling or research on this before? Can you share your current ad creative with us? Have you done message testing? Do you have messages that you're going to use? We gather this information up front to deliver the most informed custom audience as soon as possible.” 

We’ll work with you to assess your advertising plans, determine how many custom audiences you need, and coordinate our efforts around your goals. This can take a few days or up to a week.


What happens during the data collection phase?

The 3-4 week data collection stage comprises the bulk of your custom audience timeframe. It’s when our team is digging into the work of accurately and effectively cultivating your custom audience, from survey question design to data modeling and scoring. You’ll work with us to approve survey questions, and then we’re off to the races to field the survey and assess the data. 


What happens during the building and packaging phase?

The last week of the custom audience-building process is when we put a bow on everything. All of the data collection and information gathering we did in previous phases come together: We organize the modeled survey data we collected using your custom questions into an actionable audience that’s formatted for the advertising platforms you plan to use. You’ll be ready to launch campaigns with your custom audience right away.

From start to finish, expect a roughly 6-week runway from kickoff to when you can advertise against your custom audience. This is how long the custom audience-building process takes on average, but it may not perfectly predict your experience. Several factors can accelerate or slow your custom audience build, and it’s best to know what those are before you dive in.


What Factors Extend Your Custom Audience Timeline?

Just like your custom audience, the path to creating it is unique. While the same core steps will be followed to plan and package your custom audience, elements of your request can change the actual timeline. Here’s what you need to keep in mind:

  • Survey Methodology: You can’t reach every audience the same way. When we coordinate and deploy different surveying methods, your data collection timeframe may fluctuate. 
  • Geography: National surveys run differently than hyper-local or state-level surveys. Typically, it’s faster to get national-level data. Expect a longer runway if you’re looking to poll in a specific region. 
  • Number of Audiences You Need: A single custom audience may not be enough for the campaigns you’re planning this year. As we work through your goals, the Tunnl team will help you determine how many audiences we need to build. Each will have its own respective timeline for you to plan for. 
  • Number of Survey Questions You’re Asking: Every question you plan to ask needs to be drafted, revised, and approved before it ever lands on a survey. As you add questions, build in some wiggle room for this planning process.
  • Your Cooperation: Tunnl does the heavy lifting for building your custom audience from the ground up, but you lay the groundwork. The more readily you can provide the information we need, the faster we can deliver your custom audience.

But you want your custom audience as soon as possible. So, how can you keep the timeline on track or even ahead of schedule? A few things tend to accelerate custom audience creation, even when the above factors are at play.


How to Accelerate Your Custom Audience Creation

You can speed up your custom audience build even before you commission one. Have your ducks in a row in these ways to get the job done faster.

1. Play around with what’s available

Custom audiences allow you to reach niche audiences with specific interests and opinions - but they aren’t the only way to get your ads in front of the right people. With hundreds of prebuilt audiences spanning the gamut of personal interests, political opinions, and buying behaviors, our audience library may already have an audience you need.  

And using Tunnl's Audience Builder, you can build your own custom audiences in minutes based on your choice of demographic parameters, TV viewership habits, geographic radiuses, and more.


2. Anticipate your project budget

It takes time to get budgets approved, and every day that a proposal sits in some supervisor’s inbox is another day you’ll wait for your custom audience. We keep custom audience pricing crystal clear so you can plan ahead, set aside funds, and hit the ground running.

Keep data usage fees in mind, too, as you determine how a custom audience could fit into your campaigns.


3. Know where you want to advertiseBlog article image (2)

Ad platforms require your audience data to be formatted in different ways, and chances are you already have an idea of where you want to advertise. Keep those plans out in the open as you discuss your custom audience parameters with the Tunnl team. We’ll be able to align the audience with your platform preferences along the way instead of at the end.

Have your account IDs or platform IDs on hand as well. We’ll request them when it’s time to set up your custom audience on the platforms of your choice.


4. Consider your ideal outcome

You have the best handle on who needs to see your campaigns. Start thinking about who those people are. What questions would you ask a group of people to determine if they were the ideal audience for your ads? That insight will help us accelerate the custom audience-building process and get you an accurate audience you’re eager to use.

“The way that we could do this a little bit faster is if we know a little bit more context, and we can write more intelligent questions on the first try,” says Elise Katz, Tunnl’s Senior Director of Account Management. “If we can know going into the survey what audiences would be most useful coming out, it condenses the timeline a little bit.”


5. Start at the ideal time for your campaign

The right time to commission a custom audience is whenever you need one. Campaigns can happen on any timeline, and we can work with you to meet those deadlines - no matter when they may be throughout the year. However, an insider tip to accelerate your custom audience creation process is to start in the middle of the month before we field a survey. 

At Tunnl, our surveys begin fielding within the first two weeks of every month. So, if you sign on the 1st and it takes a week to get your survey questions nailed down, you may wait a month before they get asked in the next survey round. The timing often works out anyway, and it’s no problem.

But if you want more control over how soon you get your custom audience, keep the fielding timeline in mind. Get started in the middle of the month to ensure your questions are planned and prepared in time for the next upcoming survey round.


How to Prepare for Your New Custom Audience

Ad targeting and connecting with the right people are complex processes but can be made simpler. When you have a custom audience built around the issues and interests most relevant to your campaigns, you’ll spend less time course correcting and more time gaining business and influence with the groups you want. 

As a starting point for your custom audience, explore our prebuilt audience library to see which audiences are already available for you in our Prebuilt Audience Suite. You may find an audience similar to who you want to target, or get inspired for your custom audience project.

The right audience is out there. All we have to do is build it.