Advice to web advertisers: Dial back the retargeting

A few months ago, I posted an explanation of what advertising retargeting is.

In it, I wrote:

Say, you have an interest in bicycling and you spend a few minutes on a Saturday morning visiting some online retailers to see what they have related to something you’re thinking about getting. Later, you notice that everywhere you go on the internet you see ads that look like the ad below.

what is retargeting?That’s advertising retargeting.

I believe good advertising is a good thing. Good advertising can help us discover things we might otherwise miss. And the revenue from advertising helps keep lots of content free to the user.

But I’m not sure advertising retargeting, as it is being practiced today, is good advertising.

Advertising retargeting (also called behavioral retargeting) must be effective, for it’s everywhere I go. For example, a month ago, I visited the website of a security camera that was mentioned in a post on SmallBusiness.com. Over the following weeks, ads for the camera appeared  on random websites I’d visit, dozens of times each day.

So, retargeting must work–at least in the way that 2 out of 100 click-throughs are twice as effective as 1 out of 1oo click-throughs. But what about the 98 people who don’t click at all? I believe that some of them are being inspired to learn how to opt-out of retargeting — and other forms of advertising, altogether.

Retargeting is especially offensive during any gift-giving season, I wonder how families who share a computer (who don’t know how to avoid retargeting) are responding to the way retargeted ads will be show up when the person you’re shopping for is using the same web browser.  (Tip to keep your gift shopping a secret: Shop from an “Incognito window” if using Chrome,  “Private Browsing” in Safari, or “Private Window” in Firefox. In those modes, tracking cookies can’t be downloaded to your browser.)

I believe the use of retargeting has reached the point at which it can be so intrusive and random it will encourage people to adapt their usage of browsers to avoid such ads, altogether. In doing so, they will lose some of the personalization and customization features of a browser that can be helpful.

Too often, marketers tend to forget to think like customers. Too often, they don’t realize when they’re killing geese who lay golden eggs.

Helpful links:

Google Ad Help (allows you to adjust the types of ads you see)
NAI (National Advertisers Initiative) – A self-regulatory approach major advertisers and ad-serving networks are providing that provides consumers a single dashboard to control the types of ads they see.