Why Are So Many Retargeting Campaigns Crap?

Bad retargeting strategies are at minimum wasting dollars

but maybe even annoying potential customers.


Retargetting Campaigns Crap? By Dean Huff President

By Dean Huff

At KC, we are disappointed in our profession when tactics are substituted for sound strategy because it is a strong indicator that the industry may be filled with shills. Take retargeting as an example (see Behavioral Retargeting and Personalized Retargeting). Ever since Amazon and Zappos led the way in retargeting, many advertisers have latched onto it as the latest en vogue tactic without giving much thought to strategy. Many think that the tactic itself is a sales strategy. It’s not.

Case in point, I recently visited a prominent retail site to look at motorcycle boots. After a few weeks of consideration, I decided I needed to try on the boots and visited a different retailer. I loved them and bought them on the spot.

As most people would now expect, I was re-targeted by the original retailer over a period of three months with ads for the boots I had already purchased. While the retailer could not know that I made a purchase, it is no excuse for them to waste money targeting me with the same, basic awareness ad for such a long period.

With some strategic thought, the retailer’s agency could have developed a much more effective retargeting campaign. Instead of serving the same ad for twelve weeks, they should have mapped the decision process to serve different ads to move me through the purchase cycle.

The first ad could build upon my knowledge of the product benefits (increased awareness and desire). A second ad could have recognized my need to try on the boots and informed me that their brick and mortar locations in my area had the product in stock. And a third ad could inform me about a limited time offer that I could receive by registering at their site, converting the sale and capturing my data for future targeting. Considering my daily web usage, this campaign could have easily been served with frequency over four to six weeks (well within my decision window).

Perhaps more important, the retailer’s agency did not seem to consider I may have purchased motorcycle boots, completely missing the opportunity to sell me other items. Why assume for three months that I hadn’t made a purchase? A smarter strategy would have been to shift from retargeting me for the boots after five weeks and start promoting associated products including gloves, jacket, helmet, communication devices and other accessories.

Thinking that repeated retargeting exposure is adequate to close a sale results in the dumbing down of communications and diminishes ROI of what should be a cost-effective medium. And worse, the advertiser runs the risk of annoying potential consumers.

I am heartened by the fact that there are a few other firms like KC who are building strategic digital programs. Kudos to AdRoll who also care about purchase process, impression weighting and frequency capping. The sooner we all recognize that consumers are smart and know we track them, the faster more agencies will create strategies to make retargeting campaigns relevant and perhaps even helpful.

What do you think … am I just crabby today, or do we as an industry need to step up the strategy?


Dean Huff

President, Kruskopf & Company