Ad retargeting is on the rise — those ads that stalk you across the internet after you’ve even briefly visited a company’s site. Google is even testing cross-platform ad retargeting, so a site that you visit from your desktop can lead to ads served on your mobile devices.
The potential of retargeting is huge for marketers — highly relevant advertising. The ads promise to reach audiences that have already shown interest in a brand by performing some action on their website.
But retargeting is still a blunt instrument. Visiting a site is not necessarily a signal of intent. Even adding a product to a shopping cart doesn’t mean that you’re interested in advertising about that product. Retargeted ads appear for products you decided against or products you ultimately bought somewhere else. Sometime a store that actually sold you a product will continue to try to sell you that same product in retargeted ads.
Ad retargeting can also seem a little creepy as products you’ve browsed follow you around the internet for weeks. Danny Sullivan wrote an interesting article on “How Ad Retargeting Ruined Christmas” about the ads that divulged his wife’s Christmas shopping list. Christopher Ratcliff wrote about how ad retargeting nearly spoiled his wedding proposal as ads for engagement rings continually popped up on his laptop until he remembered to delete his cookies.
What’s more annoying than a badly targeted ad is an ad that acts like it’s well-targeted, but still misses the mark. This advertising assumes that it knows you, like my cartoon riffing on Minority Report.
Tesco’s Luke Vinogradov recently shared an interesting perspective on the importance of relevance in communication:
“There are some retailers that follow me around everywhere I go. I have since purchased the products they push at me, but they just didn’t pick that up. Ad retargeters do the brands they are serving a great disservice every time they bug me about something I already own.
“If you overmarket to customers they pull back. For irrelevant communications the right number to send out is zero. For relevant communications the right number can potentially be very high. Don’t ping me every day about something I only buy twice a year.”
We’re still in the awkward adolescence of ad retargeting. The promise is revealing itself, but so is the potential to irritate the very people you’re trying to reach in such a targeted way. I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on the role of ad retargeting.
(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!)