There are fewer things in marketing than retargeted ads on which my thoughts as a consumer are so diametrically opposed to those as a marketer.
For the uninitiated – or, in this case, the unchased – these are banner ads that follow you around on different websites after you’ve visited the advertiser’s website and left without signing up for a newsletter, making a purchase or otherwise failing to “convert”.
These ads are creepy, at least when you first encounter them. So much so that I once resolved to stop visiting websites that practised retargeting. That wasn’t hard in the early days when these ads were largely from B2C brands found on media websites, both of which I could easily avoid since there were dozens of alternatives in either category. But, over a period of time, as virtually everyone – B2C brands on B2B websites and vice versa – started doing retargeted campaigns, it has become impossible to keep my resolution.
Retargeting is so widespread I don't need bookmarks now. I know my surfing history by looking at the ads around me. http://t.co/unMS9vMRSQ
— GTM360 (@GTM360) November 28, 2013
Nowadays, I see Retargeted Ads even after I’ve made a purchase. This goes against the basic purpose of Retargeted Ads to bring back unconverted visitors. Therefore, they deserve the monicker “retarded ads” used by Ganesh Ramakrishnan, my ex-colleague and friend, to describe them.
Now, that’s me talking as a consumer.
In my professional life as a marketer, I find retargeted ads awesome. They consistently deliver excellent bang for the ad buck on many of my company’s digital marketing campaigns (click here to find out more). Quite often, retargeting gives us the highest ROAS of all digital channels we use (In case you didn’t know the term, Return on Advertising Spend is a very popular metric for measuring the effectiveness of advertising. For example, an ROAS of 30 means $1 spent on an ad campaign earns $30 in revenues). We’re not alone: Mr. Belson Coutinho, Vice President – Marketing, eCommerce and Innovations at Jet Airways, told us once that retargeting gave them an ROAS of 2X of their second-best online channel.
Given the awesome track record of Retargeted Ads, marketers will continue to use them even if many of their customers seem to hate them. I was even more sure of this when I saw retargeted ads used by Amazon, that pantheon of customer delight. That too, a mega-creepy version of it in which the banner ad got progressively updated with the picture of every new item I saw on subsequent visits!
That said, no brand wants to alienate its consumers for too long. Maybe it’s high time digital marketers finessed their retargeting campaigns in order to strike a middleground. I can think of at least two ways of doing that:
- With immediate effect, stop retargeting visitors who have converted. This shouldn’t be hard since all popular retargeting platforms like Google Remarketing, Bizo (now part of LinkedIn) and Vizury support this feature out of the box.
- In the medium-term, find ways to garner feedback on why consumers click or don’t click retargeted ads and use this input to enhance the IQ of their future campaigns. We’re working on developing a smart retargeting solution to help marketers do this at scale. Should you wish to steer the development of our product towards your specific needs and goals, please feel free to contact us.
I’m sure there are other ways for marketers to “have their consumer’s loyalty and eat their retargeting cake too” but, whatever they do, they need to ensure that consumers don’t confuse Retargeted Ads for Retarded Ads!