Skip to main content
Get Started

«  View All Posts

Tunnl | Products | Audiences

How Much Does It Cost To Build a Tunnl Custom Audience?

May 19th, 2023 | 11 min. read

Brian Rose

Brian joined Tunnl in October of 2019 and currently serves as a VP of Account Management.

Print/Save as PDF

Your ads aren't failing. Your audience targeting is. 

Not enough leads or unqualified leads are hamstringing your metrics. Thousands of wasted impressions from irrelevant viewers drive up your CPM with no ROI to justify spending. And you're being left in the dust by competitors who are reaching your audiences better than you know how. 

Audience intelligence is Tunnl's entire business. And we can tell you, from decades of microtargeting experience, that knowing your niche - who is in your audience and how to reach them - sets industry leaders apart from everyone else competing in the same ad space. We've created a suite of audience solutions, including premium and free prebuilt audiences, to get advertisers' messages in front of the right people. 

The ultimate Tunnl audience solutions are custom audience subscriptions. They are built exclusively, uniquely according to your campaign needs. No matter your niche, we can build the industry's best issue-based audiences for your campaigns - audiences that get your message heard over your competitors and improve your return on ad spend (ROAS) through maximum reach efficiency. 

But how much will a set of custom audiences cut into your ad budget? Can you afford to take the plunge? Let's break down the starting costs of a custom audience subscription from Tunnl and all the variables that can affect your out-the-door price so you can decide if it's worth the investment.

How Much Does a Custom Audience Cost at Tunnl?

Demo custom audiencesTunnl’s custom audience subscriptions start at $2,500 per month. At that baseline price, you can expect to receive up to three exclusive audiences developed using one survey question you and the Tunnl data team create together to poll a representative sample on the issue you’re campaigning on. All three audiences will have insights, including detailed demographics and media mix insights, for you to view in the Tunnl platform. And with Audience Activation in the Tunnl platform, your custom audience can be sent to ad platforms and DSPs for direct buying in exchange for platform-dependent data usage fees.

Why subscriptions? Offering custom audiences on a subscription basis lets us refresh your custom data monthly. We can build custom audiences for you as a one-time project, but the resultant audiences will only represent what your target group believed when they were surveyed; the data will not adapt as your audiences’ sentiments change. 

We recommend a custom audience subscription for advertisers planning to use their audiences across multiple campaigns over time.

But before you start budgeting $2,500 per month for a custom audience from Tunnl, there’s something you should know: several factors can raise the cost of your custom audience subscription.


5 Factors That Influence the Cost of a Custom Audience from Tunnl

That’s the thing about custom audiences; no two are alike. One-size-fits-all pricing doesn’t account for all the nuances of your niche audience needs. But you still need to plan and approve a predictable budget for your audience targeting tools, so how do you figure out what you can afford?

There are five factors to consider when calculating your custom audience subscription cost.

  1. The number of issues you want audiences for
  2. How many audiences you need
  3. Which data collection methods are used
  4. When your project begins, or how long it takes
  5. Where your target audience is located

They may not all impact your project, but they’re all critical to predicting a ballpark price for your custom audience subscription. The first factor to consider is the outcome you hope to achieve, starting with what you want to know. 


1. The number of issues you want audiences for

At $2,500 per month, advertisers can add one question about one issue to Tunnl’s quarterly surveys. But if you need to know more about your audience than what one question can cover, you have options. 

Say you have multiple campaigns on the horizon, all dedicated to different issues in your industry, and you want to reach a precise, persuadable audience for each one. You’ll need to poll people on each issue to get accurate audiences for all of your campaigns.

“If your issue is plastics, for example, you can ask a question on plastics, and from that you can get a pro, anti, and persuadable audience on plastics,” says David Seawright, Tunnl’s Chief Revenue Officer. “But if you want to survey people on plastic bag use and plastic bottle use, you actually have two issues, and you likely need to ask at least two questions to uncover how people feel.”

For each issue you want to add, you can plan on potentially spending an additional $2,500 per month on your audience subscription.

Here’s roughly how the pricing breaks down based on how many issues you want to ask about every quarter.

1 Issue


Develop a single question that addresses your campaign’s issue to Tunnl’s recurring survey.

Multiple Issues

+/- $7,500/month

Add at least one question per issue to Tunnl’s quarterly survey, paying about $2,500/issue/month.

Custom Survey

Talk to Sales for a Quote

Create your own custom, dedicated, recurring survey full of questions you want to build audiences around.

Talk to Sales About a Custom Audience

It’s simple: If you add more issues and questions to our survey, you’ll have enough data to create more audiences based on the issues you ask about. 

So, how many custom audiences would you like created?


2. How many audiences you need

Ask a group of people if they agree with a statement, and you’ll have people who do, people who don’t, and those who land somewhere in between. Because advertisers often use their one Tunnl survey question like this to find people who support their brand or share their stance on an issue, custom audience subscriptions typically yield three audiences: pro, anti, and persuadable. 

CardsBut there are other ways to format your questions, like having respondents select from a list all the items that apply to them. That could give you enough data to create an audience for each list item or even combinations thereof. Or you could ask a yes or no question that produces two audiences. And you may know up front that you need more than three audiences focused on the same single issue.

“Once you start adding multiple questions to a survey, we can actually then start combining answers in our data science to produce additional audiences,” says David Seawright, Tunnl’s Chief Revenue Officer. “So, you could ask three questions and not get just 3 audiences per question for a total of nine audiences but actually get 15 audiences because we're putting them together in different permutations. You have options that grow your potential custom audience yield.”

So, how does that affect your monthly custom audience cost?

The answer ties back to the number of issues you ask about. You won’t pay per audience, but you will pay per issue, with each question yielding a variable number of custom audiences based on the nature of the questions asked. 

And how you ask your questions has an impact on your subscription pricing too.


3. Which data collection methods are used

The convenient thing about handing data collection and audience building off to microtargeting experts is that you don’t have to think about how the sausage (or, in this case, the custom audience) is made. But Tunnl’s data collection methodology plays a part in the other two cost-increasing factors we have to cover, so you’ll need to know how we do what we do. 

To put it simply, some of Tunnl’s survey methods are automated, and some are not. Automated methods save time and money because they don’t require a person to sit down and administer surveys in real-time. 

For a full explanation of our various survey methods, check out our article called What is Tunnl’s Data Collection Process?

Call Center - v2A good example of this distinction is phone surveys, which can be conducted via autodialers and recorded prompts or through a person live-dialing phone numbers and administering surveys to the respondent who answers. Autodialers and recorded prompts don’t have the same resource demands as live dialing, so they are less expensive to deploy. 

But both options won’t always be available when or where you need to survey, which is how survey methods impact your custom audience cost. Let’s look at timing first.


4. When your project begins or how long it takes

Is there a single sector where timing isn’t everything? While there’s never a bad time to improve your ROAS with audience-based targeting, there are moments when creating a custom audience can cost more or less than normal. 

The timing factors that affect custom audience costs are largely dependent on the availability of certain survey methods or how quickly you need your custom audiences created.

“You’ll have more luck finding a Christmas tree on December 23rd than you will finding a call center to field your survey in September of an even-numbered year,” says Chester Bedell, Tunnl’s Director of Partnerships.Planning ahead is key to avoid this roadblock. Strategically timed data collection can improve the availability of various survey methods, minimizing your custom audience costs and potentially accelerating how soon you’ll have your custom audiences in-hand.”

Person in a political headquarters administering a phone survey using a script in a spiral-bound notebookLive dialers and call centers have a busy season, and deploying these methods to create your custom audience is not always a readily (read as: inexpensively) available option. Pollsters, panels, and surveyors can reach capacity quickly when every politician in America needs to know where they stand ahead of an election. 

We rely on some of the same data-gathering infrastructure, so Tunnl tries to plan its fielding accordingly. That’s not normally an issue you’ll need to worry about, especially when it comes to cost unless you’re in a hurry to have your custom audience created.

It takes about 4-6 weeks to create a custom audience, on average, from planning to polling to audience creation. If you need to put a rush on your order, be prepared to pay more than what’s typical. 

But something else can impact the amount of time it takes to get an accurate custom audience created: where you want to survey. Your surveys could take longer to elicit a representative sample if there are fewer qualified people to take them in the location of your choosing. Accurate audience building requires a certain number of observed opinions, so we may end up fielding your survey for more time, affecting your costs. 

And that’s not the only way location plays a part in your custom audience subscription cost.


5. Where your target audience is located

One of the primary reasons we say that custom audiences are the ultimate audience targeting solution for advertisers is because of how specific they can get. We can find people throughout the nation who are passionate about the niche issue at the heart of your business or hone in on the specific location affected by your cause.

But if you want to target a particular local geography or a very small population, you may pay more for your custom audiences. 

National surveys are simple. We add your questions to the omnibus survey Tunnl sends out quarterly, and getting a representative sample we can model a national issue-based audience on is generally fast since there are so many people we can survey through a myriad of means. 

Certain geographies, though, give us fewer people to contact and can restrict how we reach them. It’s not necessarily based on how small the geographic area is, but sometimes factors like local regulations.

Demo custom audiencesTake the state of New Hampshire, for example. It has survey restrictions in place that require data collectors like Tunnl to live-dial phone numbers, as opposed to using autodialers, to reach potential respondents. So, even though you’re running a statewide survey, it may cost more than surveying a few counties in a larger, less restricted state. 


For these reasons, it can be hard to predict how much it will cost to poll people in your target geography without talking through the scope of your project with one of our experts. But generally, a smaller niche group, whether it be due to location or demographic parameters, will cost more because they are more difficult to survey.


How to Tell if You Need a Custom Audience from Tunnl

Custom audiences are the ultimate solution for audience-based advertisers, but with so many moving parts and nuanced variables, you may be apprehensive about whether or not you can afford a custom audience subscription.

Now that you know what contributes to the overall cost, even if there is some wiggle room in how the final total is calculated, you can start to work out a ballpark price for your dream audience. 

Is a custom audience subscription right for you and your budget? 

While they are the ultimate audience targeting solutions, they are not the only option for reaching issue-based audiences with your campaigns. Alternatives like prebuilt audiences combined in the Tunnl platform’s Audience Builder enable you to DIY an approximate facsimile of a custom audience. 

But prebuilt solutions are only so powerful for niche advertisers; you’ll know when it’s time for a custom audience

At that point, think over the cost factors you’ve learned here, like how many audiences you’d ideally receive or whether you have time to get a custom audience built, and let us know if you have any questions.Talk to Sales About a Custom Audience




Subscribe to Tunnl's weekly blog newsletter