Discussion: Will Retargeting & Remarketing Become Too Creepy

September 14, 2011
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

Hey, hey! We’re back from lunch and I have a brand new, functional MIFI. Whose cooler than ME right now?

Oh? Everyone? Nevermind.

Lucky (for you),we have four speakers on stage who really ARE interesting and will rock your world. Who are they? Please meet John Ellis, Kevin Lee, Miten Sampat, and Jud Soderborg. We’re all going to talk about whether retargeting and remarketing will become too creepy. Personally, I think it’s ALREADY kind of creepy so I’m curious to see how this conversation is gonna go.

Up first to talk is Kevin.

Whose Cookie Pool

Remarketing vs Retargeting

  • New to Remarketing and Retargeting? Remarket and retarget your existing visitors for a foundation.
  • Control the cookie pool
  • All behavioral search is NOT the same
  • Considering moving from remarketing to retargeting or a third party provider.

Information is Power

What do we know just from our own data?

  • Keyword
  • Time of day
  • Reverse DNS of IP address, perhaps workplace
  • Their preferred search engine
  • Their browser of choice
  • What they looked at while on our site
  • etc

How much of this do we use before we cross the creepy line?

What can we append? If that wasn’t enough, we can append based on cookie sync and third party data like interest categories, demographics (age, gender), psychographics. Feeling creepy yet? If not, you’ve already given up on privacy, which you should anyway, says Kevin. Because you have none.

Correct Creepy Level

We can also target based on information we have about a prior site visitor. That means we could get creepy with our ad creative, but should we? Imagine these retargeting banners:

Still looking for a divorce lawyer?

The underwear you saw yesterday is on sale 25 percent off

Come back for 30 percent off honeymoon vacations

Men’s work boots on sale this week

Um, awkward. Kevin says its all about finding the right level of creepiness for you and not going beyond that. Ads can be made to seem serendipitous even when hypertargeted.

You have PII, should you use it? Only use PII (Personally Identifiable Information) with expressed consent. The Exchanges Demand It.

Beginner’s Mistake: The Performance Deal

Sometimes you are paying for the same lead/order multiple times. Siloed data collection systems can kill you.

  • Affiliate Networks
  • Performance marketing agencies
  • Performance media deals
  • Viewthrough performance media buys

Centralized reconciliation can give you a grip on this. May require some fancy data manipulation or a vendor who has taken this into account for you.

With that, moderator Chris Sherman opens things up to a discussion with all the panelists.

The appeal of remarketing and retargeting is that the focus of the message is to get closer to people. Do we have to give up on privacy or can a balance be struck to getting that closeness?

Kevin: We need to understand that there’s the whole regulatory side of this conversation and there’s some real risk associated with that. How far is too far? That depends on generation, economic and psychographic factors. What his dad considers an invasion of his privacy is very different to what HE considers an invasion of privacy. Peer groups of different segments are going to react differently.

John: I don’t know that the younger generation really cares. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad but I don’t see them having these conversations.

Jud: Yes, it’s going to be too creepy but the question is whether anyone cares. There are so many benefits to retargeting that there’s a trade off. He hates deleting his cookies because then he has to reenter in all his information again.

Chris chimes in to see that it’s really only here in the US where the young people don’t care about their privacy. Elsewhere, they actually do and are fighting to reclaim in.

It’s interesting that it’s the older generation that cares and they’re the ones making regulations for the younger people who do not. How does that play out?

Miten: A lot of it is very complicated,the people putting together the legislation really need to understand the intricacies of what we’re talking about.  It may mean saying you can follow certain types of activities, but not others. That’s what he thinks the dialogue needs to be about. That’s also more manageable from a legislative standpoint.

Jud: What we’ve seen in Europe is that if you’re going to put a cookie on someone, you need to get consent.  In England, that means putting a pop up each time, which he thinks is terrible. It’s not that cookies are bad, it’s that we don’t want them in certain sectors. Like in health. Cut the issue at the joints, don’t just hammer the whole thing.

Miten: He thinks it’ll be interesting to see what the browsers are going to do.  Are the people building the systems going to respect that? It’s going to be an interesting time ahead.

Kevin: We’re pretty geeky compared to the people walking outside this convention center. [HEY! Okay…I mean…fine] People will sometimes respond to things that they read in the press and not have a counterpoint. It’s like the guy in Spiderman who didn’t care what the truth was, he just wanted to sell papers. If you’re gonna get a raise for writing an expose on what Google knows about you, you’re not going look for the balance.  That could be a big problem for the industry.

John: Part of the education process has to be educating the media, as well. This can be beneficial to consumers as well because we’re showing targeted ads for the stuff they want.

Miten: Yes, it’s gonna get creepy and then it’s gonna get better.

You’re talking about how education is going to be important, why do you think most people are afraid of what Google is capturing about them online but not about what offline companies are capturing about them?

Kevin: That’s a testament to the power of lobbyists. Offline media was able to come up with a self-regulatory framework that says we’re protecting the consumers and that’s why you get an insert in your credit card bill that talks about what people are doing with your information. Do consumers interact with that more than a privacy policy on a Web site? No. Maybe even less. But people in the industry were able to get together and solve the problem together. [So why can’t we do that?]

Miten: What’s really happened is that the precedent that’s been said by the GLB said you have to inform the customer about what’s going on, the failure of that has set a bad precedent for what’s happening online. So now everyone wants to make sure they don’t repeat the mistakes of last time.  We have to contend with that. He thinks the other reason why the online activity of Google and Facebook are getting more attention is the amount of time that users are spending on them. He uses Gmail all the time, Google Search, etc. They can predict when he’s going to have a child, buy a house, etc.  Also the media is focusing on this a lot more.

We all assume that because companies are capturing data about us that they really do know who we are. What happens if they capture data that is just wrong but that data is being used as a “source”?

[Chris shows how rapleaf.com has at least 50 percent of his personal information completely wrong. Also, they list him as female. Awesome.]

Kevin: The reason I’m a strong advocate of focusing on visitors to your site, at least you know that person has BEEN on your site. They may not be the same person, but at some point someone from that computer came and experienced your brand. Third party data providers have a lot of work to do in terms of quality and for the consumer so the consumer can potentially be sold on the idea that it’s a benefit.

Jud: The technology is getting better. Come back in 2 years and see how that information has changed. It’s becoming a lot more sophisticated and people are becoming a lot more willing to share.

Miten: He actually thinks Chris’ data is pretty good. Nothing is going to be 100 percent accurate. He was looking at Sony cameras yesterday, if Sony now wants to give him an offer, he’d love it. He thinks the privacy concerns are a little inflated. No one is looking at your data trying to do something malicious. Overall, in terms of the grand scheme of bad things that could happen to you on the Internet, this is pretty low.

Now that we all have these mobile devices that know where we are all the time – let’s talk about that.

Miten: The difference in the online activities and the offline locations is that it’s all opt in. Most of the services are opt-in. You have to tell FourSquare where you are. There are opt-in ecommerce applications. If you want to share where you are, you run the risk of being bombarded with crap.

Kevin: To some extent, those applications may actually be the catalyst to allow the consumers to get educated about the broader picture.  You have to understand the relationship between checking in and targeting.  He’s hoping that becomes the training ground to getting the consumer comfortable with the quid pro quo – if you’re okay with it, you get better deals.

Is there a risk to brands who use retargeting and remarketing?

Kevin: there is a segment of the population that feels intruded upon. A majority of them don’t. Drugstore.com uses Telepart (he thinks). Their ads follow him around with the things he purchased most recently. A lot of times when he goes on searching, there are tampons in the ad (he buys for his entire family). He can see where a lesser educated individual might be creeped out by that. As marketers, we have the power to know that someone left silk underwear in the shopping cart but maybe we don’t need to use that in such an overt manner. You may lose part of the response rate because it doesn’t break through the clutter OR you need to figure out how to be more in their face about alerting them to what they’re doing.

John: Maybe we need to educate marketers, as well, so they know when they’re being dicks and when they need to move on. There needs to be some kind of policing.

[Audience member comments that the SMX East ad followed her for 3 weeks. Marty Weintraub is the Q&A mod and calls SMX a jerk. ;) She uses that as a reminder for people to set frequency caps.]

Most times when we talk about remarketing is about shopping cart abandonment or a “we lost ’em” kind of thing. Do you think this will become more of a primary tool than a secondary tool?

Kevin: A lot of the data aggregators are the in the business of aggregating. They’re trying to build a snapshot of who you are so agencies can come along and decide that information is worth using. Many business owners will remove a person once they make a purchase because they “got them”.  Instead of removing that person, put them in a different bucket.

Any thoughts on mobile retargeting?

Miten: There are a bunch of companies out there doing device fingerprinting, which he thinks is pretty scary.


And that’s it. We’ll be back in a little bit. :)



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