’Tis the season for retargeting ads. Major shopping periods spark a surge in campaigns triggered by items consumers browse, place in their carts, or (annoyingly) have already purchased.
Samuel Scott gave an interesting talk in October about the net effect of all of this retargeting. He said: “If anyone here uses retargeting, then it’s your fault that people are blocking online ads.”
He referenced analysis from Doc Searls in the Harvard Business Review that “the rise of adblocking has specifically correlated with the appearance of retargeted advertising … the web existed for two decades without people trying to find a way to block online advertising. So, why is it happening today? Searls found the answer – direct marketing run amok and taken to an extreme … Retargeting was the straw the broke the web’s back.”
Or as Doc Searls himself put it, “Madison Avenue fell asleep, direct response marketing ate its brain, and it woke up as an alien replica of itself.”
Samuel also featured a University of Pennsylvania study that found 66% of Americans do not want direct marketing that is tailored to their interests. When told how marketers collect their data to tailor the ads, the percentage increases to 86%.
Between the rise of adblocking, new regulations like GDPR, and industry moves like the Safari browser’s new “Intelligent Tracking Prevention”, retargeting tactics are in flux. It will be interesting to see how this shapes the future of advertising.
Here are a few cartoons I’ve drawn on this topic over the years:
“Ad Retargeting“ March 2014
“Targeted Holiday Advertising“ December 2014