The other day I was listening to episode 590 of the podcast Six Pixels of Separation, in which the host, marketer Mitch Joel (who is always outstanding in selecting guests for this excellent podcast – and even better in coming up with intelligent and insightful questions), was interviewing PR guru David Meerman Scott. And in their conversation they mentioned having experienced multiple times something that is causing a lot of frustration with both the podcast interviewer, the interviewee and myself, and which is linked to the online marketing technique called retargeting (whereby you seem to be followed around when surfing the internet by online ads from a company whose website you recently visited).
As such this marketing technique is quite successfull, but the aspect of it that Mitch Joel mentioned was referring to exactly the scenario that is causing most of the frustration for me: retargeting is unable to take into account what the reason was of your visit to the website that then triggers the retargeting. In Mitch Joel’s example he visited a website for a suitcase he had purchased already, simply because he wanted to recommend it to someone else and needed the URL to send it to the other person. In my case an striking example has been a book I looked up on amazon.com and then ended up ordering on amazon.de. But in both cases the effect was the same: both Mitch and me were shown time and again ads for a product we already own.
This is obviously bad for all parties involved: the surfer gets frustrated, the advertiser has his ad shown to people that will most certainly not click on it (and might even get a more negative attitude towards the brand, as it has been causing frustration) and the advertising network is less efficient overall.
To turn this into a positive experience for all parties, my suggestion is to reserve part of the ad space for a button that consumers can click to indicate ‘I already have this product’. That would help the surfers (as they will no longer see those irrelevant ads), the advertiser (as the ads are shown to better targeted individuals) and the advertising network (as that would be more efficient). Not to mention the huge additional advantage for the advertiser and the network: this extra datapoint brings valuable new input than can be helpful for targeting and segmentation.