Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian & Telling Stories With Data

Pretty OpenIt is such a cliché: Don't just present data, tell a story.

Yet it is rarely followed.

We almost always present data.

Actually we don't present data, we send out reports. With data. Lots of it. With 6 size font and some pies and stacked bar graphs thrown in.

Then we are frustrated that no one seems to pat us on the back, sing songs in our glory, give us more money.

We don't truly tell stories because it seems like a lot of work. And it can be. But you'll be surprised at how often it is simply a matter of framing things differently, letting your imagination roam free.

Last month I had to present to a group of executives in New York. One of the key things I wanted to communicate was the power of not doing random advertising but rather using freely available data to target the advertising on sites where relevant audiences exist.

Goals Summary:

1. Show the power of free tools available. [Google's Ad Planner specifically.]

2. Highlight the importance spending money on advertising to relevant audiences.

3. Tell a memorable story.

Below is how I did it. . . . hopefully it will inspire you to look for stories in your data, stories that will hold interest and might even get you some smiles (and you know that a raise is not far behind!).

My first step was to try and tap into current events / pop culture. That calls for some research. I use Google Insights for Search as the best way to get a pulse on what people find interesting.

Specifically what I often do is run this query: Who are the most popular celebrities in New York in the last 30 days?

google insights for search new york celebrities

Turns out it is someone called Kim Kardashian. It also turns out I have no idea who this person is, an unfortunate side effect of not have time to watch television.

Quick Google search and I am caught up on why Ms. Kardashian is "famous". She has some overlap with Paris Hilton in terms of the path to fame.

The key ingredient for any story is to have interesting protagonists. For this story due to their popularity it will be Ms. Hilton and Ms. Kardashian.

The plot: Your business has a need to market something related to Ms. Hilton and Ms. Kardashian, a perfume or a clothing line or a cd/dvd. Amongst other things you'll want to make use of display advertising (banners / widgets etc).

How do you figure out who the right audience is, and where you'll find them? As opposed to of course buying the main banner spot on were your ad might be a hit or a miss.

Tools for doing audience segmentation were quite expensive until recently. Google's Ad Planner is free and makes this valuable data democratic. You can segment by demographic (age, education, income, gender etc) and psychographic (Extreme Sports Fan, Film Buffs, Fantasy/Comic Book Readers etc) data.

Perhaps its most cool feature is the marriage between all the above data with Google's search data.

That's where the analysis starts.

Question: What are the websites that are visited by people who have searched for the keywords "paris hilton" and "kim kardashian"?

Here's the answer:

google ad planner analysis paris hilton kim kardashian sm

[Click on the image for a higher resolution version.]

Notice the I have typed the keywords on the bottom left. In the right frame are the sites that are visited by those who searched for those two terms. Some obvious sites, many surprises (good thing, now we know!).

I have a habit of sorting by Comp Index, just to check out concentration of the audience. For example a comp index of 990 means that you are approximately nine time as likely to find the same audience (paris, kim searchers) on

If you look at the higher resolution version (click on the image) you'll easily find out how many page views are on the target site, what kind of advertising they accept, ad impressions/day and other data you need to create a media plan.

So far so good.

I have always believed that Men are more interested in the kinds of stories and "entertainment" value that Ms. Hilton and Ms. Kardashian generate.

The nice thing is I can validate that hypothesis. I simply open the Gender option in the left panel and choose Male.

paris kim male audience analysis

You are looking at the top part of the segmentation panel. Notice the delta between UV (users) between the overall segment and just the Males.

Turns out I was not totally right. Males make up a bit less than half of the audience.

No worries. They are still a lot bigger than what many people think (and it is wrong to think it is overwhelmingly female).

My next believe, perhaps controversial, is that older males are more interested in Ms. Hilton and Ms. Kardashian than younger males. Now this seems odd because Ms. Hilton and Ms. Kardashian seem to be more cool and hip and more of a young generation cup of tea.

Well we can test my hypothesis, in addition to Gender I can also choose Age. . .

paris kim male young old analysis

This data is still just for people, in this case Males, who searched for the key words paris hilton and kim kardashian.

It might have been a odd thing to say but it seems that 45 and older males are a lot more interested in Ms. Hilton and Ms. Kardashian. By almost two to one.


: )

Let's prep for the punch line of this story.

I have identified a audience that is of value to my goal, marketing Ms. Hilton and Ms. Kardashian (or things connected to them).

I want to target the top end of this audience, Males 55 and older, how many of them are there and where can I find them (to ensure my advertising will be relevant for this audience and my ad dollars are spent wisely)?

Here you go. . .

google ad planner older males paris hilton kim kardashian sm

[Please click on the image for a higher resolution version.]

How about now… surprised?

I was.

The top sites listed for this audience (older Males interested in Ms. Hilton and Ms. Kardashian) turns out to be bedrock sites, typically, for Republicans and the Conservative movement! Starting with a Comp Index of 1700 for Other sites:,,,, and

Not in my wildest dreams would have I have expected that this audience would be so highly correlated with actual searches done for Ms. Hilton and Ms. Kardashian. It seems odd with the conservative moral values espoused.

Very Important: I am not judging them. To each unto his / her own.

For my marketing campaign one more valuable nugget of insight is in th above data (click above for higher resolution). Turns out they are also very rich. Note the prominent appearance of,, and

So a bumper crop: right audience, lots of money to spend. That's hot!

Now I have to go execute the campaign and I know where to target my ads, how many impressions/day I can expect and how many people I can hope to target.

Relevant audiences change with seasons, hot trends, shifting preferences. Repeat the analysis to ensure you have the most current data.

End of story.

Closing Thoughts:

    Turns out this was a very effective story to tell, most people in the room were media buyers (especially offline).

    They were impressed with the kind of data we have online, and how easily accessible it was.

    They will never forget how wrong one can be about who the relevant audience might be (it would be impossible to guess the Weekly Standard, Rush Limbaugh audience might have any interest in Ms. Hilton or Ms. Kardashian).

Data Wins.

Ok its your turn now.

When you present data how do you tell your stories? How easy or hard is it? Got a favorite story to share with us?

What did you think of the above story? Methodology or conclusions? What did you link? What did I miss?

I would love to hear from you. Thanks much.

Couple other related posts you might find interesting:


  1. 1

    Interesting post Avinash, happy to come across as I did not miss to subscribe your blog.

    By the way, the Google insights for search tool just does not seem to give results right yet. I tried to search for US and UK searches for last 7 days, and no where Michael Jackson search appeared. That made me think that it's still not that reliable to make a basis yet.

  2. 2

    Isn't the hilton/kardashian audience a very small pool of traffic within that demographic, and you would therefore be advertising to a large pool to hit your "targeted" audience? -K

  3. 3

    One thing I've noticed is that if you go to someone unfamiliar with web stats and just tell them a number, it's easy to end up with blank stares. You hint at that early in your post. I definitely agree that telling a story does several great things:

    1) It educates folks on the powers of Internet marketing and web analytics

    2) Telling that story gives a sense of how much work/thought/insight goes into analyses of these nature

    3) It shows how wonderfully complex yet readily available this data is.

    4) It build credibility. If your revelation is so shocking and unbelievable that it's hard to believe, many HiPPO's might just dismiss it as fudged math or something. The story lays it out step by step.

    I've been using these types of stories lately to present information with Google Analytics. I didn't realize that Ad Planner was so robust. I'm going to have to start using it more often on the front end of our efforts.

    Speaking of which, my evangelist efforts continue to blaze a trail. Thanks in part to you, Avinash, we are having proactive, data-driven conversations about our websites. I'm also starting to get some folks ask me about my moonlighting services!

    Keep the great posts coming. Minnesota is lovely this time of year. We'd love to have you!

  4. 4

    Where is the ad planner? Couldn't find the tool on Google…is it still in beta? Saw the link to the previous post…thanks!

  5. 5
    Ned Kumar says

    Avinash, totally agree with the essence of your post — it is easy to create 50 slides with the data you have, but it is a bit more challenging and needs more creative and insightful thinking to create just 5 slides out of them.

    The one small additional thought I have here would be that after you have 'filtered' your audience, it is sometimes worthwhile to "meditate" on them a little to visualize some of their possible intents :-). Taking your conservative/Republican friends interested in Hilton/Kardashian as an example, surely a section of them are good finds for spending $$. But then there might be a section who are searching for the likes of Hilton/Kardashian as fodder for their talk-shows, publicity stunts, or political oratory — I would not want to waste a lot of $$ on these folks :).

    Enjoyed the post — liked the use of free tools :-)

  6. 6

    Hi Avinash,

    Great example in how we can be more relevant. We can have more relevant communication in other online advertising methods. Search is not the only one that can benefit from online data.

    Many marketers use display without thinking a lot about campaign results. They argue that we should not judge display only by the effectiveness of the campaigns but also taking into consideration brand awareness. They do not want to talk with numbers.

    We have another great tool to target consumers and to convince Hippos that we should create a data driven culture especially in the web.

    Another idea to convince them for the right of your arguments is to run both display campaigns simultaneously and analyze the results. I am sure that targeted campaign will have much better results and they trust data more.

    You can also do more filtering with ad planner like household income, children in household, education etc. That gives you a powerful tool. Instead of making different banners for different websites you can make different banners for different customer segments!!

    Just a note: If you include groups 25-35, 35-45 and 18-24 then younger than 45 are a lot more than older than 45 group.


  7. 7

    Very interesting statistics on searches. But don't you have to be very careful about the conclusions you reach? For example, the statistics seem to indicate that more of the people who searched for "kim kardashian" and "paris hilton" visited certain web sites (like and share certain demographics (older males). Perhaps they searched for those terms not because they are more interested in those two people, but maybe because they don't know who those two people are, hence the use of Google search on those two names? In that case, no special interest should be associated by the group you identified (i.e., the group would not necessarily be motivated to make a purchase decision based on some association of product with Ms. Kardashian and Ms. Hilton).

    In any case, that was a great example of searching on search data, a fun read.



  8. 8

    Abhijeet: I am unsure what query you had tried. Here's what I see when I run the query in Google Insights for Search:

    Fastest Rising Searches: 29 June 2009, Michael Jackson

    It shows Michael Jackson (and Farrah Fawcett) as the fastest rising searches. Michael Jackson dominates interest even if you run the query for a Worldwide audience or the UK.

    Kate024: My goal is not "eyeballs", my goal is to find the audience for whom my ad might be relevant. I can go for a million eyeballs (/impressions) but I would much rather go for the 100k relevant ones.

    I think as humans we are enamored by large numbers, hence the obsession with display advertising on Yahoo! or search advertising on Google. I would much rather advertise on Occam's Razor (my blog :) to get the right web Analytics audience and much rather go after the keyword Analytics on Bing because my data shows that converts better.

    On TV you have no choice, you have to go for eyeballs and pray to god that those eyeballs are not in the bathroom or in the kitchen grabbing a snack when your ad's running. Online you can do so much better.

    Ned: Very sage advice, it is important to consider customer needs and wants and marry those up with the company's desired outcomes.

    The break up of the segment you have provided in your comment surely applies to anything in life? For now on the web you can't ever predict that 100% of the audience will be 100% right for you. I think we can get better at making sure most of the audience might find our marketing campaigns to be relevant. There will be a % (hopefully a decreasing % as we get better at using data) for whom it won't be a fit. Such is life.

    This only applies to the lovely heroines of our story: I am sure they would love to ensure that they are front and center for the talk show hosts and publicity / political folks. The heroines are in this for the "fame"!!

    Christos: You are absolutely right, if all else fails run a A/B test between targeted campaigns that might be smaller but reach the right audience vs "mass campaigns" that maybe seen by a huge but largely irrelevant audience.

    Data decides winners. :)

    Dave: Absolutely be more careful, try to use common sense when dealing with data.

    But to your comment…. it is difficult to interpret the "why" from this data. You can guess. I can guess. Rush Limbaugh can guess. All the data is saying is that here is something of value based on actual consumer behavior.

    Once you have that, you experiment, see Christos's comment on the blog.

    All that said, even if what you say is true, they are just looking for Ms. Hilton and Ms. Kardashian, I might still want my ads in front of them! Then I can use data to figure out if that was a good use of our ad dollars.

    I do realize I might be preaching to the choir here since you already believe that would be a better approach than guessing.

    Thanks everyone! Love the feedback.


  9. 9

    Hi Avinash, consider yourself lucky that you haven't heard of Kim Kashardian before, it shows you're interested in reality.

    The first few paragraphs in your post confirm what I've been thinking about successful web analysts: they are good salespeople. They obviously know their customers, what they want, and how to target them, I'm assuming that you are a good 'salesperson' (don't take that negatively) and this has helped you in web analytics.

    As for the Google tool you recommended, it looks like sheer gold, I'm gonna go explore it right now, I didn't know this kind of tool was freely available but then again I haven't dabbled in ad marketing too much yet.


  10. 10
    Piyush Shekhar says

    Nice Post this :)

    Thanks for the Share. Would love to know more.


  11. 11
    Scott Oliver says

    dang, i was hoping for pictures


  12. 12
    Kevin Ertell says

    Hi Avinash,

    I completely agree with your larger point that it’s very important to tell stories with data rather than simply regurgitating data. However, when telling stories I believe it’s also critical to ensure the stories’ assumptions and conclusions accurately represent the data.

    I’m concerned here that your Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian story, while certainly interesting, may not be the most accurate representation of the data.

    My main concerns are:
    1) the inherent assumption that the demographics of age and gender are the critical attributes of a certain group of people making searches under those terms
    2) the assumption, as Ned Kumar points out, that this segment was searching those terms for reasons that would resonate with what we’re selling
    3) the assumption that a high percentage of the people matching those demographics would show similar interests.

    I’m not sure, from the data shown, that we can make those leaps.

    I think the data shown would make the case for further research into the hypothesis that this particularly audience of people would be receptive to our advertising, but more study would be needed to find out if Rush Limbaugh’s audience is the right target for our campaign before we spend a lot of money on that site. Maybe the best next step would be a small test on some of the sites mentioned to see if the above assumptions play out.

  13. 13

    Kevin: Being explicit with assumptions is very important, thanks for stressing that! I could not agree more.

    Here is a bit more clarity on my thinking…

    When it comes to display (banner) advertising there really is not much to go by. So we have two choices:

    A) We can continue to fly blind like we have thus far.

    B) We can take the best possible data today and focus our media spend/budgets. Then we measure and refine.

    I am encouraging B.

    With respect to your point #3 I want to stress that my analysis was not based simply on demographic segmentation,

    I also added interest based filtering: i.e. I was specifically looking for people who had already searched for our two lovely ladies. That is what makes the data better.

    45 yrs and older males who actually searched for Ms. Hilton and Ms. Kardashian.


    PS: I have strongly supported Jim Novo's "Actionable Data Pyramid" when it comes to web analytics, that pure demographic data is least actionable. More here:

    Accuracy, Precision & Predictive Analytics

    But with display advertising (/general internet user targeted based on possible relevance) we don't have much of a choice. Though combining with actual search behavior gets us further along. Still not perfect, just better than all the other options. :)

  14. 14

    Avinash, excellent example about how use and interpret the data from insight and ad planner in United States.

    This year I often use those tools but always I got the same messages:

    Category filter isn't available for: Spain. Consider selecting another region, or selecting All Categories.

    [No data available]

    Some times I’m feel delayed to innovate new solutions.

  15. 15

    invertiaWeb: Both the AdPlanner and Insights for Search ( have search data for Spain but not all segmentation options are available because a solid source of data is not yet available in Spain (or some other countries).

    But as more sources are identified they get added. For example I was quite surprised to notice that for Brazil they now have psychographic segmentation available in the Ad Planner!


  16. 16
    Simon Tu says

    Far too often the only person enamoured by the data is the Analyst, everyone else wants insights. We need to focus on delivering insights, in this post you have shown us how to go about doing it.

    Perhaps the most facinating thing about this article is how you have managed to wrap a social commentary in a post about plain old web analytics.

    Well done!

  17. 17
    Jason Stevens says

    Abe Lincon was a great story teller and apparently used metaphors and stories to move and activate a nation. I think you method confirms the value of a 'theme' rather than a 'fact'.

    However, I have some issues with your foundations, perhaps you have already mentioned them, but here they are again and I hope you respond:

    1. The underlying numbers/statistics are being streamed by google analytics off the searched sites in Ad planner:

    This is problematic because:

    a. Not all websites have chosen to make analytics statistics public to the ad planner

    b. In the case above ad planner is using estimates which can be widly off base

    c. Not all websites use analytics to measure their site traffic

    2. You never mentioned which is possible even better than ad planner in measuring 'audience' activity.

    3. And, since I bring up Quantcast I may as well bring up

    This brings me to my final thoughts:

    Should websites not be forced to insert independent audit statistics on their website from a 3rd party such as e.g. Quantcast which does not open itself up to charges of search / planner monopoly in the same vein as Google?

    I probably rambled here a bit but I am interested in your feedback!


  18. 18

    Jason: Your first, major, assumption is incorrect.

    You are wrong that Ad Planner uses Google Analytics data globally. It has an option where you can opt in your GA data if you want (but you have to go through a minorly painful process to do it – and only you as a site owner can do that).

    I am going to go out on a limb and say that 99.9999% of the sites in the Ad Planner don't have GA implemented on their sites.

    It is not hard for you to check.

    Search for in the Ad Planner or or your mom's / friend's site. You'll see data. But if you use WASP or do a quick View Source you'll see none of them actually use GA.

    If you want to learn where the Ad Planner gets its data here is the faq:

    #2: I am afraid my personal experience with Quantcast has been less than optimal in terms of data. I personally don't use or recommend it. I have a lot better understanding of how Ad Planner, Compete, HitWise, ComScore etc collect their data. I use all of those and recommend them for specific purposes.

    #3: Alexa used to be of value, in times when their toolbar was widely used. Given the decline in Alexa usage and increase in other toolbars which are used exponentially more, it does not make for the most optimal source of data. On any day queries you run, for free, on Compete or Google Trends for Websites will give you substantially better results than Alexa.

    We have a ton of choices in our world. For Site Owners as well as for Data Providers. Each person should make fact based decision sourced from an education of data source and choices. No FUD.

    Hope this helps,


  19. 19

    Absolutely second your point on story telling!

    I often feel that it is the story telling that lifts web analysts rightly into the heart of the marketing machine rather than languishing within IT. We are bringing relevance to the data – data without a story or stories is worthless (visa versa too).

  20. 20

    Tell a memorable story… Or even something like "between us" or "non twittable". Yes you are completely right, people are always expecting to listen something from experts. It is much better than to send them tons of numbers.

  21. 21


    Brilliant story, and would never have thought I'd virtually hear "that's hot" on this blog. ROTFLMAO, right on!

  22. 22
    nicolas says


    I tried Google Ads Planner and I looked the age in facebook for the United State.

    It was showed that most of the Facebook are 45-54 years old. (27%). And that 43 % of facebook users are 45 or more years old.

    I can hardly believe that.

    Or are we all wrong about Facebook age ?

  23. 23

    Nicolas: Data from competitive intelligence tools, no matter which one you use, will never be perfect.

    But for large sites like Facebook they should be directionally accurate. And yes you are supposed to be surprised by the data.

    There has been a lot of research about the age of facebook users, here's some recent data from HitWise:

    There are some differences in the data but they do seem close. Their observation is that between 2008 and 2009 the youth has decreased by 19% and the "mid's" have increased by 12%$ and the "old's" have increased by 7%.

    So in general there has been a shift to the higher age demographic.

    Hope this helps.


  24. 24
    Nicolas says

    Thank you a lot for your answer.

    Your answers is really helpful to deal with data imprecision.

  25. 25

    Hi Avinash,

    Very interesting article! I think story telling is great way to achieve information arbitrage.

    Data must be presented in such a manner. And the all new tools (trends, research insight and ad planner) released by Google are just incredible!

    Just out of curiosity, how does the Google obtain demographic information?



  26. 26
    Prashanth says


    Great blog. Thoroughly enjoyed reading the article. Got me surprised and entertained. Thanks.

  27. 27

    Very insightful article on the power of analytics!!

  28. 28
    ryan evans says

    ah…i get it. sarah palin makes a lot more sense now.

  29. 29

    Another mind blowing post from the web analytics guru. The presentation is so amazing and it forces me to ask where do get all those cool images from?

  30. 30

    More importantly than telling a good story is telling an accurate story. False assumptions and assertions can cause poor decisions, poorer than "flying blind".

    You start off with the premise "Your business has a need to market something related to Ms. Hilton and Ms. Kardashian, a perfume or a clothing line or a cd/dvd. Amongst other things you’ll want to make use of display advertising (banners / widgets etc)."

    So Ms. Perfume Manufacture comes to you to market purses online and you end up advising her to advertise perfume on talk, news, golf, and political sights, as if the data empirically leads to that conclusion. In this case, flying blind on best guess sites like would be a better option.

    Data is key, but needs proper interpretation.

    A fun story, but I'm afraid it is faulty at its foundation and therefore leads to incorrect conclusions. After all, YOU googled Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian… are you in the market for perfume?

  31. 31

    Matt: I appreciate the feedback.

    My hope from that post is people will realize the value of telling a story. It is certainly easy to tell a bad story. I trust that rather than a literal reading of my post (I hope no one in the Paris/Kim business is reading my blog!), that it would inspire people to not simply puke out data.

    Your point is well taken.

    But I'll disagree with your premise that flying blind might yield a equal or better result than using the AdPlanner data (even in this case).

    Friends can disagree right?

    Thanks again,


  32. 32


    are you sure Google's keyword tools are telling us that much? I know you're working for google as a consultant (if that's still up to date), and I'm not trying to bash on Google as a company, at all, however I'm not really sure what to make of their keyword tools.

    Here is an example:

    I type in "learn french into the adwords keyword tool. It says there are 450.000 searches/month.
    If I limit that search to Ghana, there were 390 searches for "learn French" for the month of june.

    If I go to the Google insights for search tool I get this as a result:

    Ghana is supposedly the country with the highest interest/search volume for the term "learn French".

    Using common sense would probably tell me that there might be a mistake ;-), but if the numbers of one google tool are completely different than the numbers shown in another google tool…

    I wouldn't be surprised if the surprises you stumbled upon in your research using that tool weren't really surprises, but just mistakes.

    I mean, I am surprised that Ghana is the country with the most people searching for "learn French", too ;-).

    Seriously, though, I'm not sure what to make of G's tools….I'll continue to use the adwords tools (in combination with common sense, other kw tools and PPC testing), but well….Ghana 370 searches in June in one tool, and the other tool says it's at the top of the list…something must be wrong…


  1. […]
    Lotsa Avinash this week, starting with one of the best stories I've read this week—nay, one of the best stories I've ever read: Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian & Telling Stories With Data. In this post Avinash Kaushik takes us through the steps to "telling a story" with numbers, and thus creating memorable data. To do this he tells a story about looking up Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton using Google Ad Planner. He gets audience statistics and some very surprising results.

  2. Blog Article about  Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian & Telling Stories With Data | Occam's … - Paris Hilton says:

    Audience segmentation is an important online marketing strategy, especially for display / banner advertising. Using Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian as example this post explains how.

  3. […] Telling Storys with Data – hervorragender Post von Data-Papst Avinash […]

  4. […] Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian & Telling Stories With Data [] […]

  5. […]
    In his latest post Avinash talks about media planning and display marketing from a stories and numbers point of view.

    In “Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian & Telling Stories With Data” Avinash demonstrates how the free tools that are available today, such as Google Insights for Search, and Adplanner, provide a great (free) way to help much more accurately target your media, and in turn save you a lot of money. This is particularly so when compared to offline or traditional media.

  6. […]
    This list immediately got me thinking about the barriers to effectively adding social media to a marketing campaign. Before I start, I should point out that Avinash answers them very well for analytics.You should go read his post. And this one too. In fact, you should just subscribe to his feed like many thousands of people already have.

    Back to the list. I know the list was about analytics, but i began to see barriers for thinking digitally in this list. Remember, Crispin Porter has opened up a European base of operations and called it their creative hub. The agency they bought was an interactive one. Meaning, everything there will start with digital. So, herein is my explanation of these barriers.

  7. […]
    For more information on Ad Planner see Avinash Kaushik post or his more recent post Paris Hilton Kim Kardashian Telling Stories With Data

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