If you have the feeling that ads are stalking you more than ever, you’re right.
Facebook pioneered advertising based on social signals (clicking “Like us on Facebook”). Recently they’ve embraced old-school ad retargeting too. Ads are popping up in news feeds and sidebars not just based on Likes, but also because of other websites users visited in the past. Twitter recently announced a similar move.
Ad retargeting has been in the marketer’s toolkit for years. Visiting websites is a signal of intent. That can result in better targeted and more productive ads. But it’s a blunt instrument. Not every website visit means that you want to make a purchase. Also, cookies are not the same as people. If you lend your laptop to your seven-year old daughter, get ready to be targeted as a seven-year old.
As ad targeting gets more sophisticated, in theory this will create a better ad experiences for everyone: the right message to the right audience at the right time. But in the meantime, there will be a lot of experimentation to divine true intent and customize marketing messages to match that intent.
Marketers will also face increasing consumer backlash against stalking. Some consumers are wary of being tracked in such a granular way. Browsers like Mozilla are stepping in to make it easier to delete cookies. In the offline world, Target was caught trying to predict which of its customers were newly pregnant. One man found out his teenage daughter was pregnant because of a Target mailer based on her purchases of Q-tips and other not-so-obvious products.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on where we’re headed with ad retargeting and customized advertising in general.
Also, this week’s cartoon was inspired by an email from a couple readers (who wanted to stay anonymous). I’m sending them cartoon prints as thanks. Please let me know if you ever think a marketing topic would make a good cartoon. Thanks!
(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)