Creative targeting

Apply targeting to the creative level in line items

Creative targeting allows you to add targeting that only applies to the creative in a line item. Whereas line item targeting applies to all creatives in a line item, targeting at the creative level can be configured differently from (but be consistent with) line item targeting.

Creative and line item targeting

Creative targeting should be consistent with line item targeting. Both are applied when an ad creative serves. Ensure that there are no conflicts between creative targeting and line item targeting otherwise a line item may fail to serve.

When to use creative targeting

Creative targeting is a flexible tool and can be useful for a variety of purposes.

  • Multiple ad slots: Suppose you have a campaign that's trying to reach users on Apple operating systems. Your advertisers want multiple creatives to show on a single webpage. In your line item, you target each creative to different ad slots (or ad units) that are tagged on the webpage. At the same time, you use line item targeting to indicate the line item only serve to Apple operating systems
  • Different audiences: Your advertiser needs to reach different audiences in North America with unique creatives that promote a new line of automobiles. The creatives are customized with backgrounds that reflect different locations across North America—say, a city scene, a desert scene, and perhaps a forest scene. To achieve this result, you can: 

The use of creative targeting also lets you more easily track aggregate impressions for line items that target multiple devices or operating systems.

Serve creatives at different times of day (dayparting)

If you're looking to target creatives that serve at different times of the day, you'll need to create more than one line item with the creatives and use dayparting, which allows you to run line items at specific hours or days.

How to add creative targeting

  1. In a line item, under "Expected creatives", include inventory or ad sizes of the creatives you plan to later upload or associate.
  2. Click Show creative details to add more information for the creatives.
  3. Click the "Ad targeting" menu and click Add targeting again to open the targeting picker.
  4. Enter a creative targeting Name. Use this to describe the targeting for the creative. For example, “Android” would be the name for targeting the Android OS. The name you enter or select here will be listed in the line item view.
    • Once the targeting criteria is created, you can’t edit its name. Instead, you’d need to delete and recreate the criteria.
    • Criteria is shared within the line item, but not with other line items.
  5. Target the creative.
    Audience, video content and video position targeting are not supported at this time.

    Note that criteria you enter for the creative is in an AND relationship with line item targeting:

    • This means creative targeting can be a subset of the line item targeting. For example, the line item might target France, and the creative can target Paris.
    • If creative criteria and line item targeting criteria are mutually exclusive, the creative will not serve. For example, if the line item targets France and the creative targets London, it will not serve.
  6. To target the next creative, click Add size again, and repeat steps 3–6.
  7. Click Save. The creative targeting name is listed in the “Creative targeting” column.

Target creative targeting groups on each creative

  1. Once you’ve added all the creative targeting, add creatives for each size.
    • Check the creatives section in the saved line item. In addition to the missing creative sizes, the creative level targeting rule for each inventory size is displayed. You should generally have at least one creative per size / targeting rule combination.
  2. For each creative, a new targeting section is displayed at the bottom of the screen, pre-populated with the creative level targeting criteria set.  

System maximums and limits

There is a maximum of 800 targeting criteria per line item. This limit applies to the sum of creative and line item level targeting criteria.

There is a maximum of 61,000 active line items per publisher. Each creative targeting criterion counts toward the active line item limit. For example, a line item with 25 creative targeting criteria counts as 26 (1 line item + 25 targeting criteria) toward the 61,000 limit. Learn more about trafficking limits.

Other considerations

  • Sequential rotation is not supported by creative targeting.
  • Forecasting takes into account creative targeting when you save the line item.
  • The "begins with" (~) and "include" (*) match types are not supported for creative level targeting to simplify serving complexity and match behavior. Other match types remain available.
  • Avoid applying creative targeting to roadblock line items to ensure creatives are displayed as expected. This is particularly important for line items with "Display creatives" set to "All".

Consistent creative targeting

Targeting between creatives and line items is in an AND relationship. As such, ensure that targeting between a line items and its creatives is consistent.

For example, if you target a creative to the Apple iOS operating system but target its line item to the Android operating system, the creative won’t serve. Likewise, if you target one creative to the Apple iOS operating system, another to the Android operating system, and don’t specify any device targeting in the line item, both creatives have the potential to serve because no operating system is specified for the line item.

Ensuring that targeting is consistent also applies to targeting inventory. If you target a line item to one ad unit, for instance, and then target its creative to a different ad unit, that creative won’t serve. However, when you target an ad unit, Ad Manager by default considers serving to any children of that ad unit. It's therefore possible to target a line item to an ad unit and then target its creatives to a lower-level ad units.

If a creative targets a special ad unit, then the line item must also explicitly target the special ad unit in order for the creative to serve.

When it comes time to serve creatives, Ad Manager:

  1. Determines which creatives are eligible to serve based on ad request targeting;
  2. If only one creative is eligible to serve, serves that creative;
  3. If more than one creative are eligible to serve, Ad Manager serves them according to frequency capping and specified creative rotation type (even, weighted, or optimized--sequential rotation is not supported).

Set up a fallback creative

As a best practice, consider adding a creative at the line item level that can serve if no creatives match the creative targeting criteria . This ensures a creative serves based on the line item targeting if no impressions match creative-level targeting.

Adding a creative at the line item level without any creative targeting set is the simplest way to accomplish this but please note that this creative will be eligible for all creative targeting configurations due to the AND relationship between line items and creatives.

 Programmatic Direct and creative targeting

Some line items result from proposals and proposal line items negotiated though Programmatic Direct.

Creative targeting can be applied to these line items only if:

  • The originating proposal line item was configured with more than one size. Click "provide some creative details" under the "Sizes" section of a proposal line item to configure additional sizes.
  • The "Creative source" setting in the originating proposal line item was set to Publisher managedLearn more

If only one size is included in the originating proposal line item, the corresponding line item won't be enabled for creative targeting. If the "Creative source" is set to Advertiser provided, creative targeting can't be applied.

Programmatic Guaranteed and creative targeting


Line items that originated from Programmatic Guaranteed proposal line items can also use creative targeting, as long as the creative source for the proposal line items is set to Publisher managed.

Configuring creative targeting

Proposal line items specify a creative count for each size. For example, the size 728x90 can be added to the proposal line item along with a creative count of three (3). When Ad Manager creates the corresponding line item, the "Inventory size" section of a line item shows 728x90 along with the creative count of three (3).

Traffickers can apply creative targeting for all ad sizes in the line item. Alternatively, traffickers can break out sizes as separate entries and add unique targeting for each size. For instance, in the example above with three 728x90 sizes, the trafficker can configure creative targeting into three separate entries of 728x90 sizes, each entry with a count of one (1). The trafficker can then apply unique targeting to each size entry.

The creative count configured in line items must be the same as the count set in their originating proposal line items—either as the number specified in a single entry for an ad size or as the sum of all numbers entered for separate entries. Similarly, the ad sizes specified in originating proposal line items must be represented in the corresponding line items.

For example, again using the scenario above with three 728x90 sizes, you would not be able to set the creative count in the corresponding line item to four (4) or two (2) 728x90 sizes (whether as a single entry or separate entries). The creative count must be three (3) since this value was specified in the originating proposal line item. This value must therefore be reflected either as a single entry or as the sum of separate entries. Similarly, you wouldn't be able to include the ad size 120x600 in the corresponding line item since this size wasn't mentioned in the originating proposal line item.

When applying targeting to sizes, ensure that unique targeting presets are used for sizes of the same dimension. You cannot apply, for example, the same targeting preset to two (2) 728x90 sizes in the same line item. You could, however, apply the same targeting preset to one (1) 728x90 and one (1) 120x600 size in the same line item.

Ad unit frequency capping is not supported for corresponding line items resulting from programmatic proposal line items.

Overbooking when there's creative targeting

If the originating proposal line item did not overbook at the time Ad Manager reserved inventory, Ad Manager allows you to apply creative targeting as long as this targeting does not cause the line item to overbook.

If the originating proposal line item did overbook at the time Ad Manager reserved inventory, Ad Manager does not impose any restrictions on creative targeting. Ad Manager allows you to apply creative targeting even if it causes the line item to overbook.

Was this helpful?
How can we improve it?