While ad retargeting is often defined as a single approach, it's typically divided into these distinct methodologies.
Retargeting allows marketers to follow up with consumers who have visited the marketer's site or seen a marketer's advertising, and to remind them of offers and opportunities.
While it isn't a new concept, it's a highly effective way to reach consumers already familiar with a brand or an offer's value. You might want to think of it as a modern version of gross ratings points (GRP) in which reach and frequency of a message help to reinforce an offer and to extend the opportunity for consumers to take action.
Retargeting's fundamental difference is that it isn't based on delivering the same follow-up message to everybody. Instead, retargeting can provide customized offers to consumers who have already shown intention or interest in the brand or message.
While retargeting is often defined as a single approach, today it is more commonly divided into the following three distinct areas:
Every so often a consumer visits a site and then notices that it seems that a brand is placing ads all over the Web. In reality, the advertiser is appearing on many of the sites that the visitor is!
Site retargeting enables advertisers to show an ad to previous site visitors when they are on third-party websites. Like many targeting technologies, retargeting relies heavily on anonymous cookies to follow up with previous site visitors.
This means that if a consumer visits the site for consumer packaged goods advertiser and that advertiser employs site retargeting, then the consumer's browser would get a cookie during the visit. When the person surfs the web at a later date, participating third-party websites would look for that defining cookie as a way to determine the target browser and would then place the advertiser's ads on many of the pages that visitor visits.
Creative retargeting enables advertisers to show an ad specifically to visitors who previously were exposed to or interacted with the advertiser's creative either on their site or through interactive elements (like widgets or rich media ads) on third-party sites.
For example, if you were searching for a rental car for an upcoming business trip, you would most likely go to a rental car website to start your search. Since many car rental outlets are near airports, you may be asked for an airport code, city destination, and other information to give the rental agency a better understanding of where and when you'll need a car. Even if you don't pull the trigger on that site, you have still provided information that most likely defines your near future intent.
If you were to leave a site without making arrangements for rental after providing this data, the site may be able to follow up with you later. By tagging your browser and linking that browser ID to the session data that was captured, the advertiser can now create customized advertising that can find you on third-party websites. While it might be a bit jarring to see an ad that asks you specifically if you're still planning your trip to Las Vegas next week and to remind you that they still have an economy car waiting for you, creative retargeting is a highly effective way for that advertiser to get back into your sights so that arrangements can be made.
While not as commonplace, search retargeting is starting to grow based upon the power of keywords. As a consumer visits a search engine to look for something, the keywords used can also be passed down the line and allow display advertisers whose keyword lists overlap with the interest of the consumer to get their ads in front of more relevant eyeballs.
While this approach is still better than run-of-site (ROS) blind targeting, I would caution any advertisers exploring this approach to ensure that the keywords they use are very specific to their particular brand and offer. There are still far too many cases of poor contextual advertising relationships based upon keywords that have nothing to do with an offer.
If you are just getting started in campaign retargeting, take advantage of tools and methodologies being offered by data and audience management platforms (DMP, AMP) serving the industry today.
For in-depth look at how search retargeting can fit into your media plan, see "Search Retargeting - Where Search and Media Meet," by Robin Neifield.
Rob Graham is the CCT (chief creative technologist) of Trainingcraft, Inc., where he heads up development of customized training programs for a wide range of digital marketing, entrepreneurial development, and digital media clients.
A 20 year veteran of digital media, Rob has served as the CEO of a multimedia development company; an interactive media strategist; a rich media production specialist; a Web analytics consultant; a corporate trainer and seminar leader; and a chief marketing officer.
When he isn't on the road presenting training workshops, Rob teaches at Harvard University, Emerson College, and the University of Massachusetts - Lowell where he teaches classes on Digital Media Development, Web Store Creation, Software Programming, Business Strategies, and Interactive Marketing Best Practices.
He is the author of "Fishing From a Barrel," a guide to using audience targeting in online advertising, and "Advertising Interactively," which explores the development and uses of rich-media-based advertising. He has been an industry columnist covering interactive marketing, digital media, and audience targeting topics since 1999.
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