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Media Word of the Month: Retargeting
Ad Council Ad Council
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: New York , NY
Friday, April 19, 2019


In this edition of Media Word of the Month, Ad Council Media Assistant Manager Gabe Shore will explain retargeting – what it is, how it’s used (especially for social good) and the benefits.
Today we are going to talk about retargeting (sometimes used as a synonym for “remarketing,” but more on that in a bit). Retargeting is the simple concept of serving an ad to expose an audience to a brand or product they’ve already seen before. A good analogy is converting window shoppers into buyers. It’s a great way to maintain a presence for traffic (aka site visitors) that “bounced” from your site, or for someone who was interrupted or distracted from whatever content they viewed earlier.
On average, only 2% of traffic converts on the initial visit to a website. Retargeting is a tool for advertisers to reach the other 98%. The technology is based on “cookies,” tiny files that store information. Retargeting uses Javascript code to ‘follow’ the audience browsing the web anonymously (using non-PII, Personally Identifiable Information). Every time a new visitor goes to the advertiser’s site, a short string of code releases a browser cookie.
When visitors who carry the cookie surf the web, the cookie communicates to a retargeting provider to serve specific ads. The retargeted ads’ creative is only reaching people who have previously been exposed to your message. Retargeting has a higher ROI than other targeting methods since the audience is more likely to convert (reducing the cost of your acquisitions) since they’ve already demonstrated an interest in the brand.
Remarketing is a related concept often used interchangeably with retargeting. However, they’re not completely the same. Remarketing often involves following up with an email, instead of a cookie dropping an ad from another site.
Retargeting allows brands, products, services and in Ad Council’s case, messages, to remain top of mind with a clear call-to-action. Best practices include tailoring retargeted ads for the same content or category your audience engaged with, and not retargeting those who, in paid terms, made a purchase –unless they’ve left items in their cart or it’s expected to be a recurring action.

Exhibit A

A good example of when a retargeting ad could be used for social good is the Lung Cancer Screening campaign. Our call-to-action is for site visitors to take our lung cancer screening quiz in order to identify if they should visit their doctor to seek a lung cancer screening. When a site visitor interacts with the banner ad (Exhibit A), they are directed to SavedByTheScan.org (Exhibit B) to take the quiz. If a potential quiz taker decides to leave the site without taking the quiz, our code identifies them and retargeting ads kick-in. In this specific case, the site visitor will continue to have the banner ad (Exhibit A) appear on unrelated sites to serve as reminder to finish the lung cancer screening quiz they initially interacted with.

Exhibit B

In general, different types of offerings should have different retargeting time windows. For example, travel shoppers should be retargeted immediately; good deals go fast. Yet someone looking at a luxury good, like a $500 watch, should probably be retargeted later down the road.
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