Shadow advertising: goading customers to buy with retargeting ads

Any one who browses the internet looking for things to buy or "window shop" is familiar with ads that follow regardless of one's purchase intent.  Known as retargeted marketing, ads that shadow consumers long after they have visited a website can be useful or annoying depending the customer's original intent. Convention in the digital ad world suggests that retargeted ads help keep brands in front of bounced traffic after customers have left a website without buying-in. A mere 2% of visitors to a website "convert" on first sight and retargeting is geared to "help"  companies reach the vast majority who wander off, whatever their motivations. 

Apropos the foregoing, Forbes has a story on AdRoll, "a part of a wave of ad tech companies whose job is to “retarget” you, or find you later after you’ve looked at something that might suggest you want to make a purchase. It’s a strategy of advertising that only really works if it can follow your browsing from computer to mobile device and back, and it’s a growing sector that’s still very much an open battlefield." AdRoll's success over the years since its launch in 2008 has netted it an additonal $70 million with much of the new money going to expand its product,including mobile platforms, and geographical reach.

In expanding into the mobile arena, AdRoll has devoted efforts to as yet unnamed travel search engines where customers who have searched and not clicked through to buy will then find specific ads on their devices.  That can have considerable appeal to most of the travel sector from airlines to hotels given how Google's rival Facebook has pitched "how revolutionary the impact mobile Internet has been on media-consumption habits and how much more complicated the “path-to-purchase” is as a result."

Others in the retargeting space include companies with odd monikers like MoPub, recently acquired by Twitter and Facebook which last October announced it was testing a new capability for its Custom Audiences tool that would allow companies to retarget people who visited Web sites or mobile apps. Previously, businesses could only retarget Facebook users through customer email lists and/or phone numbers.

Retargeting of the Facebook variety can provide rich dividends to companies in allied industries: like airlines and hotels. An Expedia report from 2012 noted how airlines are missing out on ancillary revenue, baggage fees notwithstanding, by not offering a seamless hotel booking experience that includes customer preferences like packages and special deals. While there is little evidence that the lacunae on the part of airlines has improved retargeting ads to airline customers based on their profile likely will spur hotel buying that is currently taking place on other sites.


Published by

Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.