Pretargeted Ads: Your New BFF?

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“Shwing!” - Wayne and Garth, Wayne’s World

Anyone who's ever bought something online - only to have the same item you just bought stalk you around the Web like an evil twin for weeks - knows what retargeted ads look like. Yes, they work, and they work pretty well. Three out of four consumers notice retargeted ads. And even though 37 percent of consumers say they are put off by retargeted ads and 47 percent say they ignore them, retargeting leads to high conversion rates with lower costs per click, according to an extensive survey conducted by Marketing Land late last year.

The trouble is, retargeting is based on the past. Or as Tom Goodwin in AdAge put it: "There is no time in my life I am less likely to buy some white pants, a toaster or a flight to Los Angeles than after I've just bought these items, yet that's precisely the time I see ads for these products or services."

This is where pretargeted ads come in. Pretargeting is the ability to use big data to glean insight to the customer's upcoming purchase. Pretargeted ads predict a buyer's preferences with relevant and smart messages while they're in the buying phase, not after it.

They do this with big data. And that's a huge new challenge for agencies and brands. The urgent need for the closer alignment of CIO and CMO has never been more apparent. Big data is a corporate strategic asset that has a direct impact on the bottom line. Pretargeted ads rely on solid market research, gleaned from good customer data in order to be as effective as possible.

Remember a few years back when Target wanted to see if it could figure out if a customer was pregnant by using available customer data? They matched search and purchase data and made an 'educated guess' that the teen could be pregnant. The story hit the news back in 2012 when the angry dad complained to Target about ads his teenager was receiving on Facebook. It turned out that the teen was pregnant.

'Educated guessing' is now the science of pretargeting. It's already present in your personal life when Netflix and Amazon suggest content based on what you've viewed. You're seeing it before you leave on your trip to Italy in the ad for "a coupon for a sale on distinctive Italian pottery." And it the deal on Cavs tickets because, well, because LeBron James. You get the picture.

A current example of pretargeting in action, Sprint partnered with Bayer's K9 Advantix to serve mobile ads to dog lovers based on behavioral data like pet sites visited by consumers from their phone and pet-related Twitter accounts that they follow as an indicator of purchase intent.

Of course, retargeting isn't going away any time soon, but innovations like pretargeting are sweeping in because the status quo is no longer working .

Since pretargeting is partially based on search behavior, shops like adGENIE work with travel sites to ensure that ads served are specific to real-time search. So when you search for a flight from Los Angeles to New York City you're seeing only ads for those flights. Or you're searching CarMax and AutoTrader for a VW Passat in Chicago for $18,000 and you'd only be shown ads for that model and only from local dealers.

You can see how effective this can be. Ads that actually help the customer in the decision process provide true value - especially when these ads are based on customer preferences.

Obviously, there is enormous pressure building on IT. As Forrester recently observed, "The CIO's number-one job in the coming decades will be to drive business results-and by definition this requires CIOs to reshape IT for future success. Failure by CIOs to recognize this shift and shape a new IT for the future will result in turnover in IT leadership. CEOs can no longer afford IT leaders without the vision and influence to effect business change."

This vision is also required for agencies and brands. What happens when they don't get this right? They're humming along perfectly happy with retargeting and awesome creative, thinking everything is just fine. Until their competition blows past them with pretargeted ads that combine the right customer data, social profiles, and search data to make ads valuable to customers at the right time and in the right place.

Beverly Macy is author, educator, and thought leader in social and digital business and a frequent contributor to Say Daily. She is also the author The Power of Real-Time Social Media Marketing and a host of Social Media Radio.

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