Deja Vu.Com: Have We Met Somewhere Online Before?

You’re surfing through cyberspace, and all of a sudden you see something at the top of the page that says, “Hey, Michael! We got your size 11 shoes right over here!” (Joe Peschi voice-over optional.)

Was it a bird? A plane? A “beyond the banner” experience? Nope, it was “retargeting,” the buzzword of the new millennium. (I just declared it.)

And you thought banner advertising was dead. And you thought privacy debates were over.

Think again.

Hit ‘Em Where It Counts

The most common way to retarget customers via online advertising is through campaign optimization. Though not as direct as some of the other retargeting techniques outlined in this article, campaign optimization is usually the first step that most advertisers take.

I recommend starting with the shotgun approach. Budget permitting, test as many sites as possible at a low level of commitment and track it with ad-serving technology. As you begin to see which sites and specific sections within those sites are working, weed out the nonperformers. You might also watch the statistics on where and when they buy, and then retarget by time of day and geography.

From Online To Offline And Vice Versa

Recently, I ran across an interesting company called has several very large databases, sourced from IntelliQuest electronic registrations and matched to the Donnelley Consumer Database. IQ2’s High-Tech Household Database has over 11 million names, which is the largest collection of such information available and represents more than 50 percent of all US households with Internet access.

In July of this year, IQ2 was acquired by Naviant Technology Solutions, a leading customer relationship management (CRM) consulting and services provider. Here’s where it gets interesting: 24/7 Media, a giant ad network, has a large investment in Naviant.

So what happens when you take IntelliQuest, Donnelley, IQ2, Naviant, and 24/7 Media, put them in a blender, and mix it up? We’re talking about some serious retargeting.

(Note: This writer does not have a vested interest in any of these companies, and is writing for the sole purpose of advancing cool advertising technology, whether it works or not.)

One current use of the Naviant technology is that you can take online information (for example, a list of your customers’ email addresses) and match it up with offline information such as their postal address, buying behavior, how often they went online in the last 30 days, and so on. Imagine the power of a direct mail piece that is targeted to customers that bought from your site in the last 60 days.

Or you can take offline information (a name) and match it to online information. Most offline companies do not have an effective way of identifying which of their customers have access to the Internet and therefore could be included in web-based marketing activities. For example, many banks and retail stores have no way of identifying which of their thousands of customers use the Internet. Now they can determine which customers would be most likely to take advantage of the Internet for services such as online banking or online credit card payments.

With the 24/7 Media alliance, the Naviant technology may also have a heavy impact on banner advertising. Apparently there are still a few kinks to be worked out, but the plan is that 24/7 Media will be able to hook up to this huge database and serve banners on the fly according to interest and behavior. So if I bought a book last week and I go on a 24/7 Media site today, I might see a banner that asks if I want to buy a movie on that same topic.

DoubleClick also recently created a stir in the online advertising world with its purchase of Abacus Direct for more than $900 million. Abacus Direct specializes in offline database marketing, and their strength is in managing the buying patterns of catalog shoppers. DoubleClick’s strength is in tracking the online habits of web surfers. Take the two and put them together, and you have the ability to quantify and evaluate large amounts of data and retarget advertising based on that data.

Retargeting Within Your Own Site

In researching email management solutions recently, I ran across a company called The company can handle email newsletter management, but its focus is really on content personalization.

Content personalization works off of information gathered from your customers. For example, many sites have forms that people fill out when they register to become a member. They might indicate they’re interested in fishing, advertising, and MP3s. GuestTrack works with this information to serve custom content based on those preferences.

Unlike the DoubleClick and 24/7 Media models above, all of the retargeting takes place within your site. Some sample retargeting applications:

  • Serve banner ads to customers on your site based on their preferences. For example, while a customer is shopping, you can alert them to a sale in their favorite department. This banner targeting capability is also attractive to potential advertisers.
  • Serve two different people two completely different homepages based on their preferences. Or you can take it a step further to create two completely different Web sites based on user preference.
  • Serve email newsletter content based on preference. So if you’re selling music and you notice that someone buys mostly rock and country, you can email them monthly specials and recommendations within those two genres. This is a great direct response tool, and is currently being used by companies like CDNOW and

Any savvy marketer will tell you that it’s a lot easier to sell products to your current customer base than to try to create a customer from scratch. Here’s the bottom line:

  • Customers see retargeting as a service.
  • Advertisers see retargeting as a better way to reach customers.
  • Companies see retargeting as a gold mine.

If I saw a banner with my name and my shoe size on it, I’d click on that banner. Wouldn’t you? We may not be there just yet, but that day will come quicker than you can say, “Banner ads are dead.”

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