Archives for posts with tag: retargeting


Personalization is all around us. Especially online, where companies retarget people with banner ads, bid on competitor terms or even follow prospects who didn’t click on an ad by figuring out a lot about who the possible prospects are. A few years ago, when brands wanted to communicate with C-executives, companies had to run a few hundred thousand banners on a WSJ or Forbes section, read heavily by executives and pay the price of two Ferraris. Then brands tagged the computers of these executives to serve more impressions downstream, for the price of a used Honda Accord.

Suddenly, the audience of Forbes and WSJ was addressable through cheaper means, slashing media costs, aligning offers with the target and making content on high-end sites less valuable.

Personalization lifts response.

Or does it?

Personalization assumes that an offer with high relevance, based on your unique needs, will get your attention, convert you easier to a sale, and keep you as a loyal customer.

It can work. And I’ve seen it work pretty well. Still, personalization is only one aspect of three major pillars of competition: Perceived value and product. Most husbands love their wives but many of them still chase younger girlfriends. Or boyfriends. Apple couldn’t care less about personalization, they make their profit through product design, selling out new computers/phones in a day or so. All of us want a better perceived value (deals) and cool products – personalization can’t help to achieve any of these goals.

Personalization is for generic or necessary sales. It’s not for market revolutions.

Show me the person who yelled out: “I need to get this minivan.” and I’ll buy you three drinks. Nobody screams in delight: “I need to buy this DVD player.”

Market revolutions have high margins because they all have high perceived value and amazing product design. The personalization happens in the head of the customer. They adjust to the cool new product by suddenly being so much more hip.

Here’s a dirty little secret: Advertising makes tons of money off waste.

The average American watches 5 hours of TV each day. Let’s say 30 minutes of that time is advertising. If all of us would suddenly get only personalized ads, the advertising time would be cut down to 10 minutes or the average American would see the same commercials over and over again. Making advertising less valuable and profitable. The advertising industry thrives on waste. True targeting on TV would erase billions of dollars. Just like it did in the digital marketing world. Ask Forbes.

The real problem with personalization.

Human beings are not unique data sets. While I love the personalization of Amazon and Netflix, it also frustrates me to no end because I chose products for others. My kid’s birthday is only once a year and I don’t need to see the newest Lego set as a recommendation each and every day. I wish personalization offers would come bundled with a modality dial: Today I’m shopping as me. Tomorrow I’m shopping as a dad. In 2 weeks I’m shopping as a husband. That’s easy. It’s harder when it comes to my personal preferences: 2 days ago I was a Kings fan. Yesterday I was interested in technology. Tonight I am a German soccer fan. I have no clue who I’m going to be tomorrow, what I will be interested in, what might peak my interest.

We are human beings: Non-linear, all over the place, integrating a multitude of interests.

We’ll keep trying. Still, it remains a sisyphean task. Advertising was always “Spray and Pray”. We used to have 100 bullets to spray. Now we have 103 bullets.

We have to do better.


Your digital campaign represents your company, it’s the public face of your company. Just like your website, your store, your packaging, your employees, your phone tree (Let’s hope you have none.) Your digital campaign might be the first encounter of a prospect with your brand. Or it might be a visit with an old friend. Have you ever looked at the personality of your digital campaign?

All brands and their agencies design campaigns with best intentions. Sometimes they succeed. Often they fail and end up where they never wanted to go. I’ve been part of those and I’m not proud of my personal train wrecks. Advertising intends to motivate behavior change. Can you be motivated by an unlikeable person to change behavior? Shouldn’t we all try to be more likeable to customers?

Well, let me introduce you to a few of these people brands create every day.

The cheesy salesman

His perfume is cheap and strong, his clothes outdated and loud, and his pitch is annoying and even louder. Whenever you see him, you try to run away as fast as you can. He tries to sell and upsell anything, as long he profits from it: He doesn’t care.

That’s the digital campaign with huge “Buy” or “Click” buttons, takeovers, pop-unders, scams to make you”like” the brand: Any trick in the book is good to make you buy. Or at least to make you show some interest. That’s the least you can do to keep the cheesy salesman employed.

The creepy guy

You meet him at a party, have a brief chat with him and he believes you want to get married to him. Wherever you go, he’s there: At the gym, at work, in your home. He continues to ask the same question: “Why don’t we close the deal?” He’s the guy that makes you feel uncomfortable, a Big Brother always watching. If you could, you would punch him in the face but he might take that as a sign that you want to close the deal.

As a digital campaign, these are the re-targeting slaves. Yes, I showed interest in your airline 1 week ago but that doesn’t mean you need to remind me on every page I visit, thanks to your massive ad network/retargeting buy. A friend might have sent me a link to your offer, I checked it out and didn’t care. Make me care even less by retargeting me 5,012 times. Maybe it works at the 5,013th impression. Who knows?

Paris Hilton

Ok, she looks good. But, ask her what time it is and she needs an assistant because her brain is permanently turned off. Ask her to do anything and she’ll answer with a frozen smile. She’s stupid, she can’t do anything, the world adored her at one point. Oh, did I mention she’s pretty?

As a digital marketing campaign, that’s the flashturbation campaign. So much Rich Media, you can pay the global debt with it. Too bad it doesn’t work on all devices, crashes your computer and serves no conversion purpose. Oh, did I mention it looks pretty?

The cheerleader

Who doesn’t love cheerleaders? Your team sucks, no one in the stands, it’s raining, they ran out of beer and the cheerleader is still smiling, yelling: Go team. They don’t understand why you don’t like their team, why you don’t share the same level of enthusiasm. No matter, in their mind the own team will always be the best. Even though they haven’t won a game in 10 years.

As a digital campaign, this is the campaign that doesn’t get why you wouldn’t “like” their Facebook page even though there’s no reason for you to like it. No value proposition. Why wouldn’t you follow a Twitter stream brimming with promotional messages? Why do you need motivation to change your behavior? Isn’t our presence ┬ámotivation enough?

The cheapskate

He’s the guy occupying the parking lot of Best Buy the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. He’s the guy that occupies the coffee shop for hours with an order of a miniature coffee. He’s the guy sitting next to toilet, the guy that gets the worst seat in the bar. He doesn’t care. As long as it’s cheap, he’s happy.

The digital campaign you don’t see. Cheap inventory equals invisibility. Banner ads below the fold on sites you don’t dare visiting because they look like malware-infested 1990 designs. The cheapskate loves the cheesy sales guy on the publisher site. It’s a mutual feeling: the sales guy sells garbage and the cheapskate sifts through it, filled with happiness.