Google has opened access to their Ad Planner to anyone with a Google account. This is news of note for any arts marketing manager or coordinator and might be worth a few minutes of exploration. Ad Planner is a tool that helps you identify Web sites that your target audience is visiting by aggregating tons of search and site visit data. You can narrow your focus by demographic (gender, age, household income, education), by geographic region (country, state, metro regions), or by sites or keywords searched. You can select target Web sites and create a "Media Plan" and explore that plan through aggregate demographic data and interactive charts.
How Google collects this data in the first place is a mystery to me and still subject to discussion, and the limitations of the data can be felt when trying to use Ad Planner to get really specific about your target audience. While playing around in Ad Planner, I found that attempting to drill down too much resulted in, well, no results.
Trying to filter by keywords searched can be particularly problematic. For example, when I search for sites visited by people who search for the keyword "art," and no other demographic or geographic filters applied, I get a large number of results. Searching for people searching for "art" and who are in my hometown of Pittsburgh, or even my home state of Pennsylvania, returns no results. Does this mean that no one in PA is searching for "art?" No. It means that Google Ad Planner, like almost all of Google's products, is still a BETA release that has a long road of improvement ahead of it.
Does this mean that Ad Planner is useless? Not completely. I was still able to get pretty good results searching for demographic and geographic information at the same time (it's just those darn keywords that seem to throw things off). Would I create an entire Web advertising campaign based on the Ad Planner's advice? No. But would I take a look at it to gain some additional perspective and potential targets? Absolutely.