Targeting is one of the main fundamentals in advertising. However, with old models of advertising, this could not be done very effectively. It is for this reason that digital advertising really took the world by storm. One of its major innovations is retargeting, which allows precision targeting at scale. The real power of cookies lies in their ability to enable retargeting.  


Retargeting can be conceptualised as a back and forth dialogue between advertisers and consumers. Advertisers take a cue from their consumers' online behaviour, to determine where in the purchase funnel their consumers are situated.  They can then respond strategically with the appropriate ad, which may push them further down the purchase funnel, ultimately resulting in a conversion (action). They can also target people who have completed the intended action (e.g subscribing or purchasing), to bring them into the funnel again.

The purchase funnel comprises of 3 stages:

  • Awareness (when users who may or may not already desire to purchase are made aware of your brand),

  • Consideration (when users think about making a purchase)

  • Action (this can range from subscribing to a newsletter to an actual transaction)


So, as always, what is it?

Retargeting is a form of online advertising that can help advertisers to serve their ad to someone even after they have left the advertiser’s website. Retargeting is a tool designed to help companies reach users who don’t convert (i.e take an action) right away.


How does it work?

Retargeting is a cookie-based technology that uses a Javascript code to anonymously ‘follow’ an advertiser’s audience across the Web.

Site-based retargeting is the most common practice of serving ads to people who visit advertiser’s websites after they leave. These ads appear on the other sites the user subsequently visits, keeping an advertiser’s message in front of site visitors in an attempt to bring them back to their site.

For a simple illustration of how this works, we made the following diagram:


The Process

When someone visits a website, a few lines of code will drop an anonymous browser cookie. This cookie is a small file that stores information. The cookie stores the site visit, but does not store any personal information, such as the site visitor’s name, address etc.

The cookie lets the retargeter know when one of these visitors appears on another site. When an ad space becomes available on the website the user is visiting, the retargeter will bid on that space in real-time. If they are the highest bidder, they will secure the ad space before the page loads. This entire process is of course automated and occurs within a fraction of a second. This is RTB.


Audience Benefit

Retargeting is so effective because it focuses advertising spend on users who are already familiar with an advertiser's brand and have recently demonstrated their interest. The majority of marketers who use it gain a higher ROI (Return on Investment).

The audience also benefits from being served more relevant ads which improves their online experience.


Retargeting has its problems, however.

No advertiser wants to annoy its current or potential audience, or to make these users feel as if their every move is being followed across the web. Retargeting is all about balance. In order to rectify this, advertisers can set a frequency cap to limit the number of impressions each of your users is served.


Here’s the main takeaway

Retargeting is a very powerful branding and conversion optimisation tool.


Here at The Media Trader, we ensure that your advert(s) do not appear more than once in a given amount of time. We also help you to avoid annoying or overwhelming your current and potential audiences. Finally, as we are committed to transparency, we analyse the success of your ads, showing you the clickthrough rates and conversions.  

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