The Good Marketing vs. Creepy Marketing Debate

by | Feb 9, 2016

by | Feb 9, 2016 | Marketing

It’s happened to all of us.

We innocently search on Google for something like plane tickets to Las Vegas. We browse for a couple of minutes, but fail to find what we want. So we move on, and check the news on Facebook.

That’s when you see it. A tiny ad tucked neatly into your Facebook timeline that is promoting discounted plane tickets to Las Vegas.

How did “they” know?

That ad appeared because the airline is using a digital marketing tactic called “retargeting.”

Here’s how it works.

Just about every website has a cookie on it to record a user’s activity – the pages they view on websites, the search keywords they punch into Google, and the content they Like on Facebook. That activity is recorded to a database. The database contains a collection of ads, and some of them are then delivered back to the user based on their activity.

The goal for the marketer is fair – show ads to people who are interested in seeing them. Studies show the effectiveness of an ad goes way up if the audience actually wants to see it.

So, if I search for airplane tickets to Las Vegas, I have shown interest in flying to Las Vegas. If the deal in the ad is good enough, I’ll click on it and buy.

Is this practice creepy, or is it simply good marketing? To decide, let’s discuss the two main reasons retargeting is controversial.

One, unless you’re in the industry, it’s difficult to understand how it works.

Two, data is being recorded, but many times consumers either aren’t aware they agreed to allow their data to be recorded, or they didn’t opt-in to a having their activity recorded.

Now that we know how it works at a basic level, you have to decide if you are okay with the recording of your activity data.

As a consumer, I’m okay with having my data recorded. Here’s why.

A 2014 study by Media Dynamics revealed that the average consumer sees between 3,000 and 20,000 marketing messages a day. How many of those are irrelevant? More than a few, probably… with the likely exception of retargeting ads. Those are relevant, and often times useful.

While the term “retargeting” is awful language – who wants to feel targeted? – I have no issue with it as a consumer, and find it helps achieve and surpass marketing goals.

I’d love to hear from you. As a consumer, do you like receiving ads that are relevant to your interests? As a marketer, have you found success with retargeting?

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