If you run any kind of online business then you’ll have been approached by companies selling retargeted adverts. My own view is that retargeted ads are a waste of time and money. But for those who don’t quite know what I’m waffling about, let me explain a little more.
Can your Website, Blog or Company make money from Retargeted Ads?
Yes but the amounts will be tiny. For example, one site I’m involved with earned just 70p in a month. That site has over 2,000 unique visitors a day – it isn’t an obscure blog, like this one. So you need huge traffic numbers to get respectable money.
Someone has to click the ad, and then buy something, for the company selling the ad service to get paid. Your blog, magazine or company then gets a commission payment.
Retargeted ads are, in effect, a `race to bottom’ as regards online advertising. The other important point to remember is that just like Affiliate Window, or similar services, the middlemen are skimming off the cream of the cash, you’re getting the pennies.
But Aren’t Retargeted Ads Better than Old Banner Adverts?
Possibly. But here are two things to consider; firstly the success of banner ads is judged in terms of clicks, nothing else, which is ridiculous.
Nobody clicks on a TV, radio, or print advert, but do big brands spend big money on all those old fashioned types of advertising? Hell yes. That’s because advertising works like a kind of osmosis, or as marketeers call it, `brand awareness.’
You keep seeing adverts for Santander, Cadbury’s Nokia, Ford cars etc. and after a while that seeps into your subconscious. You begin to `trust’ the brand; you believe it’s a `big’ company, so their products might be worth a look and the company might care enough about its reputation to stand by its guarantee.
So a banner ad can still work like a digital billboard, or newspaper advert. In fact it can work better, as it can move images and text, offering a kind of Gif-like experience to the casual web shopper.
London Business School Study – More Clicks on Generic Ads
A 2013 academic study by London Business School found that consumers were in fact more prone to clicking on generic brand ads, not the specific, narrow focus, retargeted ads served by the cookie creeps watching your every move online.
Read the pdf of the research here by the way
The study itself is of limited value, as it chooses to use hotel room searches as its test methodology. People who look for hotel rooms are generally not casually wandering the internet. Instead, they want a room, they often know the dates and the short list of locations too – they are highly motivated consumers.
The study found that the percentage of those consumers who looked at reviews sites like TripAdvisor, before looking for rooms, only converted at a rate of 6%. That means 94% of people did NOT click and buy a room. Despite all the advertising, of every type.
To me, that highlights how hazy, and unrelated, some search results – and adverts – still are, how badly written many website pages STILL are, and the basic human nature at work in this process. At heart, we don’t always know exactly what we want, but we are willing to be persuaded, tempted, and shown something new and exciting.
If you’ve Already Rejected Something, Why Do You Want to see it 87 Times Again?
There’s another good question for the pedlars of retargeted ads.
To find the answer, we must go back to human nature territory once again, because it boils down to what makes us human; if we look at a web page it doesn’t mean we want to buy that product or service. We are not shopping all the time.
Even if we do browse to shop, that doesn’t mean the company making those smartphones, shoes, cars, bikes etc. has won us over with their badly written, slightly pretentious blog, or `news’ story, cobbled together by a posh intern called Lucinda Chummy-Stringpuller.
So why would we want to see the same ads displayed on almost every other page, as we subsequently browse the net? After seeing the same ad on another ten pages, it goes beyond annoying. Many people will be utterly determined NOT to click on the `stalker’ advert which now loiters in the corner of the page, like a pleading puppy.
Brand Affinity is More Likely to Work Than Just Mapping Your Browsing History
Case Study: I once booked a room near the NEC using Booking.com. I now get an email every BLOODY WEEK from them, telling me there are deals on rooms in Solihull. Does it not occur to brands that I might want to stay somewhere else in the UK, or even abroad?
There’s much more to online marketing than just using cookies and software to look at someone’s browsing history. Yes, it offers a gold mine of data, especially if you can capture a year or two’s worth. But it isn’t a well rounded portrait of the actual person and that means retargeted ads cannot work very well.
Sometimes the ad will be served at exactly the right time; payday just gone, family event on the horizon, necessary purchase of clothes, gifts, hotel etc. has to be made that day.
I’m not saying it can’t happen. But the odds are always going to be long.
Instead, look at how old fashioned adverts on TV and in print continue to focus on brand values and human relationships. It is, in the end, the sheer fun of a day at Alton Towers which sells the experience, or the undeniable luxury feel, and design of a Mercedes, which makes people aspire to own one.
There are many links in the daisy chain of buying. Consumers are different, complex and fuelled by emotions like fear, desire, status, trust, guilt and more.
Finally, just imagine if someone from Debenhams followed you round the High Street and kept tapping on the window as you visited Next, H&M or River Island? You would punch them – hard. That’s what retargeted adverts are; an irritating sales monkey on your back.
And who needs that?