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What Are Audience Refreshes, and Why Are They Essential for Issue-Based Advertising?

August 19th, 2022 | 11 min. read

Brent Seaborn

Brent is the Co-founder and Chief Data Science Officer at Tunnl.

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Updated August 2023

The court of public opinion tends to respect your right to a speedy trial. Consumers make up their minds - and change them - overnight. They want to work with and buy from brands that share their values, even as those values change. 

As the marketing world blurs into public affairs with increasing frequency, there's a heightened need to express your organization's values as a means of connecting with consumers.

But you'll lose customers if you strike the wrong chord. 

Some 40% of consumers report losing trust in a brand and opting to use products from its competitors instead. So, if you're relying on issue-based audience data to reach the right people with your paid campaigns (and you should be), you need to be sure you're targeting people who care about your issues right now

When was the last time you checked your data to see if it was still up to date?

To align your brand with your target market’s values and nurture consumer trust, regularly refreshing your audience data is essential. But what constitutes an audience refresh, and how often should they happen?

The microtargeting pioneers at Tunnl have been building audiences for decades, and they've incorporated audience refreshes into our proprietary process because change is inevitable. You can always rely on Tunnl to deliver the fresh insights you need to stay connected with your consumer on the issues that are relevant right now.

With so much at stake for issue-based advertisers and media buyers, up-to-date data is a must for accurate audience targeting. Let's get right into why audience refreshes are vital to successful audience-based media buys and how they're done.


What Is an Audience Refresh?

An audience refresh is the process of updating audiences with fresh data and insights. 

“A refresh re-establishes your data as an accurate reflection of how the people in your target market currently feel about certain issues or topics,” says Amanda Peterson Beadle, Tunnl’s Senior Director of Customer Success. “They’re incredibly important to staying aligned and understanding who you’re marketing to as times change and opinions continue to shift.”

Woman using the Tunnl platform on a laptop looking at an audience insights dashboard for the prebuilt Opinion Leaders audienceYou rely on audience data to get your campaigns in front of the right people, so if that data is out of date, you may be wasting your ad budget to reach people who are not invested in your issue. Audience refreshes help you avoid budget waste by keeping audiences populated with freshly-polled or recently-modeled consumers and voters. 


In addition to helping you reach a precise group of the right people, audience refreshes save you the costly embarrassment of reaching the wrong people on polarizing issues. This is where a current understanding of consumer values can make or break your brand's reputation.

Consider the following results from a Google Cloud research poll:

  • 82% of consumers want a brand’s values to align with their own
  • 75% of consumers will part ways with a brand over unaligned values

“You need to be able to understand changes in opinion over time,” advises Amanda. “That way, your messaging is most likely to connect with your target market in a way that’s authentic to them in that moment.”

Audience refreshes help you achieve this by updating audiences with fresh data on opinions and values, media consumption behaviors, and demographics. Refreshes result in a reliable group of people for your campaign targeting with less risk of value clashes and a more accurate understanding of how they are currently consuming media so you can reach them efficiently. 


Two Examples of Audience Refreshes in Action

Wondering how relevant audience refreshes are to campaigns like yours? Here are two examples that put the importance of an audience refresh into perspective for brands, public affairs advertisers, and issue advocates. 

Example #1: Using Audience Refreshes to Keep Up with Hot Button Issues Like ESG

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: opinions in America can change quickly.

Whether they're influenced by headlines, trends, or your campaigns, consumers are constantly gathering information and adjusting their opinions on the issues of the day.

Take a topic like Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) legislation.

ESG recognizes the power of consumers and investors to make economic choices that align with their core beliefs and contribute to positive social change.

However, the debate continues as to whether ESG initiatives truly deliver the desired impact.

What Americans really think about ESG is still developing, but as we enter an election year with vocal supporters and counter-activists on ESG issues, public sentiment is bound to change in one direction or another. 

You need to know about your customer base, and you need to know about your employee base and anyone else that matters to you before you engage on these issues. Prioritize learning what motivates or persuades your target audience when it comes to these topics before you put dollars behind a campaign on the issue.

Excerpt from Tunnl's webinar, A Data-Backed Discussion on the Future of ESG in America.

As more people become pro-ESG or anti-ESG, your campaigns on this hot-button issue need to keep pace with who is in each camp. Audience refreshes allow data providers like Tunnl to track the changes in consumer and voter sentiments and apply them to the audiences made available to advertisers like you. 


Example #2: Using Audience Refreshes to Track Your Favorability

If your brand is running a persuasion ad campaign, like trying to sway public sentiment on a ballot initiative affecting your industry, you’d need the ability to measure your audience’s change in sentiment over that campaign’s entire run-time.

“The only way to know whether your original audience is still targetable is to check in continually and refresh your audiences,” says Amanda Beadle, Tunnl's Senior Director of Customer Success. “Tunnl’s audience refreshes accomplish that for you.”

Audience refreshes make this a given. Every 3–4 months, when your audience is refreshed, you'll see how the individuals in your audiences have shifted through changes in audience counts. Some are more positive on your issue; others are more negative.

This helps you extrapolate how your paid, organic, and earned media efforts are impacting your reputation and shaping the narrative around your issue. 

Audience refreshes also give you the ability to tailor the next wave of ad targeting, so you’re only talking to the people who still need persuading, and not wasting dollars on people you have already evangelized or who are not willing to budge.


Now you understand the role audience refreshes play in precise targeting for audience-based media buyers running issue-based ads. But how exactly does an audience become "refreshed?"


How Does Tunnl Refresh Audiences?

Tunnl routinely refreshes all of our audiences - custom, prebuilt, and premium prebuilt like U.S. Policy Opinion Makers - with data collected from large-sample, nationwide surveys, so you can be sure that the audience you’re leveraging aligns with your real consumers’ behaviors and values. In that way, audience refreshes work in a very similar fashion to how Tunnl collects data and how we build audiences initially.

The process begins with building a survey. The questions asked in this survey inform the building of new audiences and update the data of pre-existing ones.

Business woman smiling on the phone dressed in a suitWe include a combination of questions to update our existing audiences, including the original questions that we asked when first building the audiences. This way, we can show how people’s opinions have changed over time.

After the survey is drafted, Tunnl is in the field surveying a representative sample of people through various means, including live-dial calls, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) surveys, and online panels.

“This combination helps us make sure we are reaching a demographically representative mix of ages, genders, and races,” says Amanda.

Once the survey is complete, Tunnl’s analysts review the data and compare it to our existing audiences. With that fresh data and analysis, we name and build new audiences and refresh pre-existing audiences.

Finally, the refreshed audiences are uploaded into the Tunnl platform, popular data marketplaces, and partner platforms where our audiences are syndicated for your convenience.

This multi-step process is our bread and butter; the data infrastructure and network of fielding resources we've carefully developed allow Tunnl to create and update audiences more quickly and accurately than most advertisers can manage on their own. 

But since it takes a while to survey people and organize audience data, how often are audience refreshes actually happening?

How Often Do Audiences Need Refreshing?

This is a commonly asked question, and the answer depends on your goals and needs.

If you refresh your audience every week, you will not see movement attributable to your targeting efforts. If you only refresh your audiences every year or two, you're likely to be missing attributable results essential for campaign optimization and proving the value of continued investments. 

We've determined the sweet spot is around every three months. This timeline allows enough time to pass to accurately measure movement that you can confidently attribute to your campaign. 

Depending on what type of campaign you are running, you may need to refresh your audience on a more or less frequent basis. 

Tunnl routinely refreshes all of our audiences; prebuilt, premium prebuilt, and custom.

Refreshing Prebuilt Audiences

Tunnl Free - Need Audience Insights Now? Access insights for hundreds of prebuilt audiences, including audience counts and national media mixes, anytime in the Tunnl Platform for free.Tunnl conducts a national audience refresh survey every quarter. We do this to ensure our library of hundreds of prebuilt audiences is being built on the most up-to-date information available. That way, advertisers can depend on their data at all times as opinions shift, new issues emerge, and old information becomes irrelevant.


Each refresh also results in new audiences, and we will remove any audiences from our library that have become outdated or irrelevant so that they are kept out of advertisers’ way.

“We monitor to make sure our prebuilt audiences have the freshest data, meaning we will never let our data grow stale,” says Amanda. 

We create our prebuilt audiences as a time- and budget-conscious solution for advertisers to target pop-up issues immediately. Tunnl’s prebuilt audiences give advertisers access to consumers or voters who are supportive, persuadable, or in opposition to the issues that matter the most to them. These audiences can be activated right away to keep your campaigns moving on universal or popular issues and are an excellent springboard for audience-based media buys. 

But the ultimate audience targeting solution is Tunnl's custom audiences, which also get recurring refreshes to maintain their unique value. 

Refreshing Custom Audiences

Tunnl's custom audience subscriptions are the pinnacle of precise, niche audience targeting. Created specifically for your campaigns, custom audiences allow you to ask consumers and voters about the issues you're campaigning on or concerned about. They are yours and yours alone to use, giving you the competitive edge that comes with insights like media mixes and cable rankings for your specific target audience. 

To keep custom audiences relevant and valuable, they need refreshes too. The optimal refresh cadence for custom audiences depends on the circumstances of your campaign and end goals.

For example, you may be planning an awareness campaign aiming to improve brand recall over the next 6 months. When your custom audiences are created, we may ask consumers if they've heard of the brand you're tracking and what they think of it. Resulting audiences may include people who are familiar with the brand, have never heard of it, or are unsure, as well as people who have a positive or negative opinion of the brand. 

You launch your campaign, targeting people unfamiliar and unsure about the brand, potentially campaigning to people with a negative opinion of the brand whose minds you want to change. In 3 months, you refresh the audiences to see if you're making progress. Have more people heard of the brand? Do more people like or support it? The number of people in each audience will help determine exactly that. 

But perhaps at the 4-month mark in your campaign, the brand you're tracking makes headlines for one reason or another. There's a new urgency to see how this spike in media attention is affecting recognition and favorability, so it's in your best interest to refresh the audiences sooner. 

In short, it depends, but your Tunnl team will help you find the right refresh frequency to serve your needs. 

Did You Know...

Tunnl custom audience clients can also join our quarterly national audience refresh survey, in which we create 1–5 questions unique to your issue or cause and include them in the survey, as part of our audience refresh process. 


Stay Connected with Your Target Market Through Fresh Audience Insights

Advertisers know that understanding your audience is the key to creating impactful campaigns and keeping your brand out of trouble with target members of today's value-based buyers. With frequently refreshed audiences, you can drive action, create impact, and build trust - all in an optimally efficient and effective way.

You can count on Tunnl to bring the freshest, most accurate audience insights available into all of our issue-based audiences so that you can understand and reach your target market with maximum impact and efficiency.

To learn more about Tunnl’s audiences, check out our guide on everything you need to know about Tunnl audiences, including the hundreds of prebuilt audiences available instantly for use in your campaigns and the ultimate audience targeting solution, custom audiences. 

Learn More About Tunnl Audiences