Obviously the objective of any online ad campaign is to generate leads and further the impact of your brand. The tactics employed in this process have changed over the past few years, evolving from a pure media-based buying strategy to one of audience targeting – or programmatic ad targeting – which identifies an audience as names and addresses (and sometimes emails) and looks for those people in the bid-stream infrastructure of the Demand Side Platform ad servers. Often those names and addresses are your customers from your CRM platform.
Sounds reasonable – instead of waiting for your ideal prospect audience to find you on a chosen media site through inbound marketing, programmatic allows the onboarded customer or prospect to be found wherever they are online. But because online advertising is inherently a more transient medium than direct mail or even television, other tactics often need to be called on to piggyback on the programmatic audience to reinforce messaging. In direct mail it is a commonly held belief that a marketer has to drop three or more pieces of mail to a target prospect in order to optimize the conversion rate of a campaign. This same principle is applied online through tactics such as the approved retargeting of your audience. Retargeting, as commonly executed, improves the “take rate” of online ad campaigns to drive more conversions.
Data onboarding through email or mapping a Facebook ID to a cookie will reduce your prospect audience by half (at least) because of poor match rates. Onboarding to an IP Address that is then matched to the ID of all the impressions seen by the DSP typically produces much better match rates in the 75% to 95% range. This improvement is critically important because it doubles the number of unique users available, especially for B2B, local and trade area campaigns, or any situation where prospects are distinct from the broader population. But back to retargeting…
Retargeting should fundamentally be the targeting of the original audience that you onboarded and paid for. One of the not-so-subtle tactics being pushed by certain DSPs is to use the audience data you paid for as a seed to ID others who go to the same or similar sites. The DSPs claim this is a way to do household extension or predictor audiences to “fill in the blanks” of cookie audiences lacking unique user coverage. In effect what the DSPs are doing is inserting themselves into the middle of the revenue stream of your campaign, cutting out the data onboarding vendor and data supplier, and diluting (by 10X or more) the integrity and focused impact of the audience that you paid for.
“Jumping the Retargeting Pool” comes with promises of lower cost impressions and broader qualified audiences. However, the truth is eye opening. The DSP never needed to know anything about your audience at all; they leveraged the audience that you already paid for, flipped it into a pool of unwashed and unqualified “others”, and then charged you for a data cost they don’t have. The insidious part is that the DSP will occasionally even try to force the data provider to supply them with the original audience in order to improve “retargeting relevance”. Other times they just quietly clone that audience and jump even deeper into the CPM margins.
But as a marketer all you care about is return on investment and protecting your customer. That’s appropriate. However, the next time a DSP tells you they can get you access to the same audience at half the price – be wary. The next time they tell you to hand over half your budget and let them do site retargeting because they have better access to more unique qualified users – think twice. Your CRM file and prospects have been onboarded for a reason. Your strategy is to reach the very best prospects – your carefully prequalified audience – and improve the quality of your response rates. But if (for some reason) you still allow your DSP to manage your campaigns, you should make sure they have a policy in place that discourages this practice. You have the right to demand audience transparency and full attribution.
Jumping the retargeting pool is what is called on Wall Street a churn and burn strategy. It seems to make sense but it is not in your best long-term interest.