About one year ago, Business Insider editor Sam Ro wanted to learn more about those giant inflatable men with flailing arms, typically reserved for car dealerships. So naturally, he turned to Google.
Ro says he searched for these inflatable guys once and clicked on one banner ad. Now, he says, “A giant guy with inflatable arms has been chasing me all over the internet for a year.” Ro has kept track of how often the ad reappears, via Twitter.
It began in August 2013, when Ro wanted to know the correct term for the air-filled men with flailing arms.
What’s the real word for “whacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube man”?
— Sam Ro (@bySamRo) August 14, 2013
After that fateful day, Ro hasn’t been able to escape them.
The ad popped up Jan. 1.
Here it is again on March 18.
This one came up Aug. 8.
What Ro is experiencing is called retargeting.
You, too, have likely had a similar experience. Say you visit Nordstrom or Zappos and look at a pair of shoes. You might add the shoes to your shopping cart, but regardless, you leave the site before completing the company’s desired outcome — in this case, purchasing the shoes.
That’s where retargeting companies like AdRoll, Criteo, and Triggit come in. According to AdRoll’s website, only 2% of customers actually purchase an item on their first visit. Retargeting aims to get the other 98% back to the site later on by dropping a cookie, or a small piece of code, in the user’s browser.
AdRoll can track where shoppers go next and what types of products they spend time looking at. This helps advertisers serve customers with more relevant ads in the future.
At its core, retargeting is all about serving the right people, with the right ad, at the right time in order to increase a company’s return on investment.
The thought is if a user sees a product they considered purchasing a few days or weeks ago, they might have forgotten about it. The ad is a way to jog the customer’s memory, get them back to the site, and get them to purchase the item.
After about a year though, you would think these “custom
air dancers” would get the hint and stop following Ro around, especially since he hasn’t clicked on the ads recently.
According to Google, advertisers do have the ability to place a frequency cap on ads, which allows them to either select the number of times or length of time a specific ad is shown. In the case of the mysterious inflatable men, it would seem the company has wide parameters for how long it’s willing to place these
Zach Coelius, co-founder and CEO of retargeting company Triggit, says that not setting a frequency cap is not an effective strategy for a brand.
“It’s terrible,” Coelius says, but explains it’s an understandable mistake. “Each ad costs roughly one tenth of one penny, so it’s easy for an advertiser to make that mistake and not realise that it’s damaging their brand.”
If the ad is served through Google, like the inflatable man ad is, there is an option to opt out by clicking the x in the right hand corner. However, according to Google’s website, opting out does not necessarily mean you’ll never see the ad again.
“The muting is not a 100% guarantee you won’t see that ad again — for example, the same ad could be shown by a different ad company, or the marketer could run a separate campaign targeting specific web content,” Google’s Help Center explains.
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