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Tunnl | Products | Audiences

Refreshing Data-Driven Audiences: The 3 Most Commonly Asked Questions

January 25th, 2022 | 7 min. read

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We all know that feeling of checking on something in your fridge only to discover that it has expired. Well, like the food in your fridge, your data — the foundation of your targeted audiences — needs to be refreshed, too.

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

If your data is old and no longer matches the reality of your audiences, your marketing won’t be as effective as it can be. It would be like marketing the Chargers to a San Diegan— the team is long gone and the fan base has changed dramatically.

For many marketers, refreshing their audiences has generally been an “every now and then” practice. Whether it was once every year - or even every two years - refresh cadence was infrequent because of a variety of factors:

  • Audience refreshes are not considered cost-efficient
  • Refreshes take too long to conduct
  • Brands unaware that they need to refresh audiences

Audience refreshes are particularly crucial for purpose-driven and ESG (environmental, social, and governance) marketers. These advertisers need to have a constant pulse on public opinion as they wade into challenging societal issues.

At Tunnl, we’ve been creating and refreshing audiences for over twenty years. There are three questions we get asked almost whenever we talk to brands about the importance of refreshing their audiences:

  • Why are audience refreshes important?
  • When should I refresh my audience segments?
  • How does Tunnl refresh audiences?

In this article, we discuss those essential questions and provide you with the answers you need.


Why Is It Important To Refresh Your Audience?


Today’s public opinion is constantly changing and evolving. Your data needs to keep up with that rapid change. If you do not, you risk getting left behind with wasted company resources.

There are two reasons why refreshing audiences is important:

  1. Public opinion is being constantly influenced and is subject to rapid changes
  2. You need to measure shifts in opinion over time

Refreshing Audience Segments Because of Changing Public Opinion

2020 was the perfect example of why audiences need to be refreshed. Think about it. In 2020, we saw civil unrest, a contentious Presidential election, and a worldwide pandemic. Public opinion was constantly changing which presented a challenge for marketers.


How quickly public opinions can shift drastically: A Covid-19 Case Study

In March 2020, the NBA suspended its season. Schools across the nation shut their doors. America as a whole quickly entered a national lockdown under the thread of COVID-19.

What began as “two weeks to slow the spread” quickly became 18 months of rapidly changing opinions. Americans clashed over COVID-19 and the appropriate response to the pandemic. There were a wide variety of opinions on everything from:

  • mask mandates
  • business closures
  • remote learning
  • vaccine rollouts

Large organizations, from governments to businesses, struggled to keep up with "appropriate responses" to these challenges. They had many people to answer to - ranging from key stakeholders, from voters to employees to shareholders and more.

Take a look at YouGov’s excellent COVID data to see the challenge faced by these organizations:


YouGov Covid Vaccine Willingness Data


Before the 2020 presidential election, less than half of Americans said they would take the COVID-19 vaccine. Fast forward to today, that number has climbed to nearly 75%.


How could new audience information change vaccine campaigns?

With hundreds of millions of dollars spent in advertising to persuade Americans to get vaccinated, the necessity of fresh, recent data could not be more clear. Without regular refreshes, these advertisers would be targeting those they have already convinced — wasting precious resources.


Refreshing audience segments to measure shifts in opinion over time

If your brand or company is running a persuasion ad campaign, you need the ability to measure the change in sentiment over time. 


“The only way to know whether your original audience is still targetable is to continually check-in and refresh your audiences.” -Samantha Zaleski, Tunnl’s Senior Director of Client Relations


After 3-4 months, we will look at how those individuals have shifted - some are more positive on their issues, others are more negative. This is important because it gives you the ability to tailor the next wave of ad targeting. This ensures you are only talking to the people who still need persuading - so you aren’t wasting dollars on people you have already convinced.


How the auto industry has shifted because of changes in public opinion

The automotive industry is perhaps the most recognizable example of an entire industry having to evolve due to a change in public opinion. Cars, trucks, and SUVs are the most popular mode of transportation in the United States.

Americans’ vehicles of choice aren’t changing, but how they are powered is.


As more and more Americans are talking about climate change and protecting the environment, they are also changing their energy consumption habits - forcing automakers to respond. In March of 2021, electric vehicle sales in the U.S. reached a record high monthly volume - a 300% increase over 10 years ago.


But, auto manufacturers are facing increased scrutiny from regulators, legislators, and the public at large for their contributions to a more sustainable future.

Legacy auto brands want to re-position themselves as electric vehicle companies in light of these changes. Companies like GM are vowing to exclusively sell electric vehicles by 2035. They are also touting their local investment and the jobs created to manufacture these vehicles. 

Vehicle manufacturers need to keep tabs on this ever-changing opinion around electric vehicles. The more public opinion shifts in favor of electric vehicles, the more they will need to step up their innovation and manufacturing capabilities. Elon Musk’s Tesla is no stranger to this reality. 

Few people would have predicted the rapid rise of electric vehicles and the soaring popularity of Tesla. However, now Tesla is facing the reality of having demand being higher than their current manufacturing capacity. Tesla recognized this, along with the upward trend towards EVs, and to this day continue to ramp up their manufacturing capabilities to meet the increasing public demand.

With such a massive investment in electric vehicles — and the inevitable marketing support to promote this investment — automakers need a thorough understanding of who lands where on issues of sustainability, the environment, oil and gas, and more to appropriately target those dollars to drive desired outcomes. Such an understanding can only occur with regularly refreshed data.


How Often Should I Refresh My Audience?


This is a commonly asked question and the answer depends on your needs. If you refresh your audience every week, you will not see attributable movement. If you only refresh your audiences every year or two, you may not be accounting for any movement that may have happened during that year.


One common audience refresh cadence is around every three months.


This timeline allows enough time to pass to see a movement that can be attributed to your targeting efforts. However, depending on what type of campaign you are running, you may need to refresh your audience on a more or less frequent basis


How Does Tunnl Refresh Audiences?

At Tunnl, we have two types of audiences - custom and pre-built. We refresh them both!


Refreshing Custom Audiences

Tunnl clients can set up a custom project with us where we determine the best cadence of refreshing your audiences. Sometimes that’s twice in a year - other times it’s 3, 4, or even more, depending on the circumstances of the campaign and the end goals.

All of these projects start with a baseline audience building project - these are the first audiences clients will have us build for them. From there, we will continue to refine them as we learn more and as the campaign continues. This solution is best for clients who need 10 or more audiences and more custom analysis.

Tunnl clients can also join our quarterly national audience refresh survey where they usually put 1-5 questions on the survey. These will result in approximately 2-10 audiences. Because the survey work we do to collect voter and consumer opinions is quarterly, those clients get fresh audiences every 3 months. 


Refreshing Pre-built Audiences

Tunnl conducts a national audience refresh survey every quarter. The reason we do this is to ensure that our library of over 150+ pre-built audiences is being built on the most up-to-date information available. This is crucial because anyone can activate these audiences at any time on any medium.

We built these audiences as a time and budget-conscious solution for advertisers to target pop-up issues. This gives them access to consumers or voters who are supportive, persuadable, or in opposition to the issues that matter the most to them.


I Need to Keep Learning About Audiences...

If you want more information about audiences, visit our Learning Center. You can also check out our audience taxonomy to see if we have a pre-built audience that fits your needs.

If you want to learn more about starting a custom audience project, contact Brian Rose, Tunnl’s VP of Business Development, at