Introduction to Using Personas for Online Advertising

Personas are fictitious people representing real customer groups, i.e., different types (e.g., most valuable, most loyal, most responsive – or the least valuable, etc.).

Most typically, personas are presented to decision makers as persona profiles, i.e., narrative representations of different kinds of users belonging to a particular demographic, behavior, and/or attitude involved in using a product, site, or brand.

Online advertising work refers to activities that online advertisers undertake in their typical work day.

Personas can help online advertising in their work. Here’s how:

  1. Segmentation refers to dividing the total available market into addressable constituents, i.e., segments. Here, we observe that persona is a segment with a name and a face. Hence, segmentation can be done in a persona-assisted manner, yielding personas as outcomes.
  2. Once segmentation is done, targeting follows; namely, advertisers select which segments to focus on. Here, a persona system can recommend specific personas to target, given an explicit goal such maximize reach, engagement, or sales.
  3. After targets are chosen, ad copywriting follows. Here, personas can help human advertisers or generative AI models to create ad headlines, texts, and even imagery personalized to the selected personas.
  4. After ad content has been created, advertisers proceed to campaign set-up. This means creating the campaigns in the ad platform and configuring the settings. Here, personas can provide a structure; i.e., campaigns can be organized by personas, ensuring that the naming and targeting criteria match the personas.
  5. This then yields an advantage in the next stage which is optimization; i.e., making decisions based on the results. Namely, once campaigns are running, they start to generate data; if the data is organized by personas, it becomes easier for an algorithm (or a human) to adjust budget allocation given the actual marketing performance of a given persona.

Ideas here are based on academic research: Kaate, Ilkka, Salminen, Joni, Jung, Soon-gyo, Olkkonen, Rami, and Jansen, Bernard J. (2023). How Can Intelligent Persona Features Support Online Advertising Work? In the Proceedings of The Sixteenth International Conference on Advances in Computer-Human Interactions. IARIA, p. 65-67. Venice, Italy. ISBN: 978-1-68558-078-0.

Curious to do your Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctoral thesis on personas? Contact me for collaboration opportunities and research topics: Dr. Joni Salminen, email: