Retargeting: A method of online advertising that delivers customized ads to consumers based on their previous Internet actions—or, more commonly, their inactions.
If you’ve ever browsed on a retailer’s site for, say, a pair of boots—perhaps even put those boots into your shopping cart while you browsed elsewhere—you may have noticed that an ad for the boots follows you to many of the other sites you subsequently visit. This is retargeting in action, and as Wall Street Journal reporter Julia Angwin told the NPR program “Fresh Air” earlier this month, it’s considered one of the most productive forms of online monitoring, because it frequently results in a sale. “It’s not that creepy with shoes,” Angwin told interviewer Dave Davies, “but [advertisers] also target things like, are you bipolar?” (Listen to the 39-minute radio interview; the discussion of retargeting begins at about the 12-minute mark.)
Angwin was the lead reporter for a recent five-part WSJ series, “What They Know,” that investigated the world of cookies, beacons, and other consumer-tracking technology. (The series includes a glossary.)
Retargeting is big business. Here’s how Criteo, which specializes in “scalable personalized retargeting,” describes its marketplace advantage:
Criteo has revolutionized retargeting with the most sophisticated form of dynamic personalized retargeting. Over the past decade there has been a slow evolution of retargeting. This third generation of retargeting enables an advertiser to show each lost visitor a unique banner based on his/her very specific past interactions on the advertiser’s website. This new form of retargeting involves on-the-fly, real-time personalized banner creation and has a dramatic impact on campaign performance.
Learn how to protect yourself from intrusive online advertisers.