By Amy Mitchell, Vice President, Media Director
Through the strategic use of pixels and cookies, advertisers are able to tag and reach their intended audience in more relevant and timely ways than ever before. Sure, we can still target users by simple demographics such as age, income and geography, but things have gotten a lot cooler (or creepier?) than that.
Ever been surfing the Internet and been served an ad that is not only for a company whose site you visited in recent history, but an ad that includes the exact item(s) at which you were looking on said site? For example, I shop Overstock.com for household items on a fairly regular basis. Upon going to, say, my Yahoo email, reading a Huffington Post story or browsing an online forum that I follow, I’ll be served an Overstock ad with a rotating carousel including that cool rug I looked at, that KitchenAid stand mixer that I just can’t seem to take the leap on yet and that cute little wind chime that would just be perfect for my porch.
“Gee,” I think, “that rug really would look great in the dining room. And look, it’s 15 percent off!” And so I click on the ad and am taken directly to that rug’s page, where I add it to my virtual shopping cart and complete the transaction. Well done, Overstock. You got me.
This is called retargeting (synonymous with remarketing), and it’s a terrific way to reach the “low-hanging fruit”: people who have already shown an interest in your product or service. How it works: For each page I visited on Overstock’s site, I was cookied. Overstock had engaged in a retargeting interactive advertising buy wherein each time someone who had been cookied on their site lands on a website that’s within their ad network buy (of which there could literally be thousands — Yahoo Mail and Huffington Post, for example), they’re then eligible to be served an Overstock ad.
Creepy? Maybe, but personally, I’d rather be served ads that are actually of relevance to me rather than be blasted with ads for which I have no interest or connection. Depending on which study you read, retargeted ads’ click-through rates perform two to five times better than interactive ads that are not as pinpointed, making the additional advertising investment well worth the money.
Beyond retargeting, we have other rich interactive targeting methods at our fingertips, including but not limited to:
- Behavioral targeting allows us to target users based on behavior they’ve demonstrated while online. For example, if I’ve checked out Toyota’s Rav4 page and Subaru’s Outback page and have also checked out auto insurance rates online, one could assume that I’m in the market for a new SUV. Therefore, Jeep might take this cue and serve me a Liberty ad. Again, this is accomplished through cookie data.
- Contextual targeting allows us to target users based on the context of the sites on which they’re visiting. For example, if an advertiser is trying to reach mothers of young children in central Indiana, we can place an ad network buy for them comprising sites that are contextually relevant — mommy blogs, recipe sites, entertainment sites, family-related sites, education sites, etc. — and limit it to central Indiana only.
- Social targeting, which is among one of the newer targeting options, allows us to target users based on what they’re tweeting, sharing on Instagram, sharing on Facebook, hash-tagging, etc. Targeting is based on a keyword(s) within the post. Creeped out yet? Maybe a little?
- Search/keyword targeting allows us to target people based on keywords/terms they’ve used when conducting searches online. For example, if someone has searched on terms such as “family entertainment,” “activities in Indy” or “fun stuff in Indiana,” they might be interested in spending a day at the always-engaging and entertaining Indianapolis Zoo. We provide the ad network vendor with a list of relevant keywords, then the vendor serves our ads to users within the purchased network (again the sites in the networks are always wide and varied) that have conducted searches, including any of the keywords on said list. Come on, I know you’re creeped out now.
The reasoning behind engaging in any method of interactive targeting beyond the “givens” (geography, age, etc.) is to make more efficient and effective use of your advertising dollars. Barring certain advertisers/campaigns, gone are the days of blasting your message out to the masses. In most cases, an advertiser’s product doesn’t offer the broad appeal that say, a Coca-Cola or a Target does, and because of this, especially in today’s hectic and fragmented advertising landscape, we need to be smart and relevant in our targeting.
So, dear advertiser, I ask you: Who is your core target audience? Chances are great that we can help you reach them online — and maybe creep them out a little in the process.