Retargeting keeps ads coming again and again

Retargeting keeps ads coming again and again

Be careful out there

CALGARY, AB, Mar. 19, 2012, Troy Media – Facebook thinks I’m an old man. Correction, Facebook knows I’m an old man, and the worst part is, I told it so when I voluntarily filled in my profile.


As Internet marketing expert Jeff Nelson of Anduro Marketing told me “You entered your name, your birth date, who you were married to, where you live, where you went to school, who you work for, what languages you speak, what you like to do, what music you enjoy, etc. As you can see, this information is a marketer’s dream.”

Personal information as product

It is often said, “When you don’t pay for the product, you are the product.” This is absolutely true of Facebook – our personal information is the product being sold to advertisers. It’s like an admission fee to get all the fun of Facebook. I, for one, have long come to terms with this quid pro quo and am fine with it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a little disconcerting from time to time.

Like how it knows to put ads for Cadillacs and insurance in front of me. I guess it knows I am prone to a mid-life crisis, like Led Zeppelin, and am statistically likely to die sooner rather than later. Harrumph.

The other night I was out for drinks with friends and one, a married woman, wondered why she keeps getting all these singles ads. Our table mates told her to fill in her marital status in her Facebook profile and those ads should give way to diapers or decorating or something innocuous. Come to think of it, maybe the singles ads are more fun.

A recent tweet from @MatWilcox on a similar topic piqued my interest:

“What kind of ads are you seeing when you surf? For me it is a lot of expensive shoe ads. The same ones on all different sites. Interesting.”

Wilcox is one of Canada’s leading communications strategists, so when she notices a communications aberration, I notice her noticing. I asked Wilcox what was going on and how she felt about this “big-brother-esque” experience.

“I only noticed it because the same ad for expensive shoes comes up on every website I link to,” said Wilcox. “Now it is an irritant and I unsubscribed from the Saks website where I originally was looking for a specific pair of shoes (waiting for the sale to come on). What if you were purchasing something on your computer that you didn’t want your kids to see? Are there policies for what kind of ads they can place?”

Several knowing folks responded to Wilcox’s original tweet that she was experiencing something called “retargeting.” Wikipedia says:

retargeting – is a form of online targeted advertising by which online advertising is targeted to consumers based on their previous Internet actions, in situations where these actions did not result in a sale or conversion.”

In other words, you didn’t buy so the salesperson is going to follow you around. And it seems largely self-policed by the advertising industry and the sites that host the ads (not necessarily a bad thing).

According to TechCrunch, a company called AdRoll is the world’s largest retargeting company, with over 3,500 advertisers and 414 per cent revenue growth in 2011. The AdRoll home page extolls the main virtue of retargeting as bringing customers back when they don’t “convert” (aka buy) the first time.

You’ve been (re)targeted

Generally 2 per cent of shoppers convert on the first visit to an online store. Retargeting brings back the other 98 per cent. Retargeting works by keeping track of people who visit your site and displaying your retargeting ads to them as they visit other sites online.”

Next week I’ll delve into the world of Pay Per Click and AdWords, with more insights from Anduro president Jeff Nelson.

Meanwhile, be careful out there – you have a retarget painted on your back, at least until you convert.

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