Retargeting Gone Wrong


MMDBy Maria Martinez-Diaz, Business Development Manager

Welcome to our new blog series, Targeting Gone Wrong. 15 years as an internet user, 4 years as media planner and 2 years at DataXu have exposed me to some really awful ad targeting–everything from California prop 8 messages when I am clearly in New York, to an epic number of car ads when I don’t even have a valid driver’s license. The mind boggling part? Almost all bad targeting is preventable by leveraging existing technology solutions. In this series, we will explore poorly targeted ads and what advertisers can do to prevent them. First up: Retargeting gone wrong.

The Offense: Software platform retargets a website visitor offering them a free trial of their service. But the user is already a customer!

Who’s the Culprit?

Poorly segmented website segments.

The standard software website is a one stop shop for two primary audiences: prospects trying to learn more about the product and existing customers trying to access cloud based systems. Standard site tagging can only segment users based on the pages they viewed. For example homepage, product page, login page. However, this type of segmentation sets an advertiser up for retargeting failure. Consider the typical user flow on a website:

  • A prospect arrives at the homepage and then click into relevant product sales pages. This places her into two segments: homepage, product page.
  • An existing customer arrives at the same homepage and then proceeds to the login in page. This places the customer into the same segment as the prospect (homepage) and into a login page segment.

The Loss:

Since many advertisers use their homepage segment as proxy for identifying prospects, this leads to a prospect pool riddled with existing customers. The advertiser then wastes prospecting marketing dollars on an existing customer and loses the opportunity to upsell the customer on new services.

Wait! It Gets Worse:

Some systems also take into account the frequency of visits to increase marketing to users. So the loyal existing customer going to the website to login in multiple times a day gets an increased frequency of ‘free trial’ offers that they will never use while true prospects receive less marketing.

What Can Be Done About It?

What’s great about this offense is that it has a couple of solutions.

  • Anti-Targeting: Working with the advertiser, DataXu can create an anti-targeting segment. In this scenario, we would pixel the login page, so any user who is identified in the login page segment would not be targeted with prospecting ads.
  • An Integrated stack: Leveraging the DataXu Platform allows you to create more robust user segments and manage advanced targeting rules, such as “don’t target existing customers from my homepage segment with prospecting ads but do serve them the upsell message.”

Have you been a victim of targeting gone wrong? Leave your worst retargeting experience stories in the comments!