Retargeting Ads – A Personal Stalker

September 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

“I did a search for skin lotion and now there is an ad on many of the sites I visit. After a few days I realized that the ad was the result of my searches and felt violated. I have decided to purchase a product from a competitor that is not stalking me”, EdnaTN from Tennessee in response to a NYT article on retargeting ads.

Such is the norm that people get annoyed by a persistent salesperson. It happens that a persistent advertisement is equally irksome.

“And retargeting has reached a level of precision that is leaving consumers with the palpable feeling that they are being watched as they roam the virtual aisles of online stores”, NYT says.

Retargeting, also known as behavioral retargeting, or behavioral remarketing is a form of online advertising that targets a specific consumer based on his/her previous internet actions that did not generate any results, typically a purchase.

Retargeting ads are mostly adopted by e-commerce sites, for it is more likely for a woman to make a compulsory purchase of a pair of over-priced Michael Kors boots than to subscribe to a dieting service or register for an insurance plan she barely need. B&H,, and are among its users.

Google made remarketing service available to all advertisers on its AdWorks network in March, 2009. According to NYT, this is how it works, “a person who has visited, for instance, may be tagged as a basketball fan and later will e shown ads for related merchandise”.

“In the digital advertising business, this form of highly personalized marketing is being hailed as the latest breakthrough because it tries to show consumers the right ad at the right time”, NYT says.

Most people are used to being tracked online, be it cookies, browsing history or purchasing records. However, this effort by advertisers seem to have crossed the line, generating discuss on how far should advertising intrude people’e private lives.

Some advertisers already sensed the potential counter effects caused by exposing consumers to too much advertising.

Much experience as I have on online shopping, I’ve never been retargeted before. The sheer idea of being touted around is enough to freak me out. I wouldn’t go so far as to buy the product from a competitor’s website as a punishment for the peddler. I will, however, try to clean up my cookies as often as possible to avoid being retargeted, or to use ad-block service if the situation doesn’t get better.

Ben Williams, who works in online advertising, mentioned frequency capping in advertising practices, saying that “[S]howing someone the same ad over and over, even if they have shown an interest in a product does not add a positively reflect on a brand particularly if your choice was not to buy a product. Frequency capping is one of the tools that helps with this — only exposing someone to an ad a finite number of times during a set period has helped with this, and needs to be considered in retargeting campaigns.“

Given that there are different levels of tolerance among people, it is advisable for remarketers to give consumers the choice to turn the ad off, if they find the ad particularly unhelpful or annoying.


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