How to Ruin Retargeting For the Rest of Us

The courtship of two singles in a bar is a strange and unique human experience. Think about all of the pickup lines and anti-pickup lines that have been a major part of our national culture since reproduction was invented. The careful line that people have try to skate when approaching someone in a bar is a balancing act between “I want to give you the impression that I have an interest in you physically, yet I don’t want to appear cheesy and overanxious.” This balance typically denotes extreme failure or success for singles the world over.

This very same balance, interest versus over-anxiousness, manifested in design, could make the difference in your behavioral retargeting ads. The resurgence of display advertising has been led by the precision of behavioral targeting—in essence, we can now serve impressions to only those potential consumers that we actually care about.

There are 3 major benefits in launching this type of behavioral advertising:

1. Stimulate return visitors to your site

2. Drive otherwise “lost” sales

3. Create the “They’re Huge” effect

Most people forget that #3 is a real and powerful thing. The “They’re Huge” effect is the consumer phenomenon of established credibility when an internet marketing company, or any advertising agency, is seen advertising on their most trusted and visited websites. Because credibility and authority are such critical factors in influencing buying decisions, we see this as the cornerstone benefit of all retargeting campaigns—which should be thought of in the same light or priority as all other metrics. Trust, on the very same Internet that has a spam rate as high as 75%, has been completely relied on by on-site activity in the past to influence consumer willingness to buy.

Internet Consumer Trust Model

Internet Consumer Trust Model

The Internet Consumer Trust Model (above) as well as hundreds of other theses already written and hypothesized illustrates just this. The motive of this post is to really pick apart retargeting design strategy from a standpoint of trust and apparent value of the “They’re huge effect.”

The natural tendency of designing new media banner ads is hard to resist for some creatives. They not only want bigger, better, and flashier, but also to reduce the user to a set of targeting filters. Trying to outsmart your target brings creatives to launch ads not unlike the following:

The concept of this retargeting banner is to directly address the targeted prospect and pull back the virtual shade on their marketing initiative. In a nutshell, this banner tells a consumer: “you can’t escape us; we are everything that consumers have come to fear on the Internet.” And with the oxygen expelled from prospects’ lungs at the moment of realization that they are infected with some new strain of web-pig-flu, trust flies right out of the window.

If consumers know they are being targeted, they slam shut like a Washington clam. The way marketers can further perpetuate the sensation of mistrust is to unveil their strategy right smack dab in people’s faces.

Stick to the basics, folks. Whether you’re trying to earn valuable trust from a potential date or a retargeting prospect, one thing holds certain and that is that you should never reveal that you are aiming toward a conversion.

Advertising, Media 2 Comments

Lebron James’ Toothbrush & Cavities: A Consumer Engagement Story


Lebron James goes on TV to announce who will be the next in line for the opportunity to give him millions of dollars, and clearly we are all supposed to learn something from the process. Whether
it be how news-makers are controlling the news media (is that in and of itself new?) or how the King James phenomena is fully wielding the power of social media, something much larger than sports is occurring with the buzz leading up to and following “The Decision.” Part of what makes James’ recent strategy astounding are its similarities to recent and highly successful campaigns from Colgate and Mountain Dew. Oral care, heavily sugared carbonated beverages, and championship-less, non-clutch basketball players all can use the same tools to expand their business. The key to it all: Consumer Engagement.

The concept of consumer engagement is by no means new to the marketing world, but has
clearly taken on a life of its own via the web, and not without controversy. Engagement in simplest terms is the process of changing customers from passive, indifferent consumers of your product to active participators. It is in many ways a very ambiguous concept in terms of execution, but with incredible impact once executed. Adding clouds to clarity are the odd adages that follow it. For example, Gannet Media’s recent tweet “There is no shortcut to engagement, there is only engagement.” For the business owner that is about as helpful as Yoda’s “Do or do not. There is no try.” Luckily, considering the launch of Colgate Whisp, Mountain Dew White Out, and “The Decision” as case studies we can arrive at more substantive concepts.

Engagement is Achieved Through Multi-Tiered Approaches.

All three campaigns employed the big three: social media, video, and contests. Colgate Whisp’s
campaign outsourced viral video via CollegeHumor, used a Facebook game widget, and a photo
submission/rating contest with location based filtering. Mountain Dew White Out’s campaign was literally a campaign using voting on outsourced campaign commercials, a Twitter follower contest, and solicitation of label designs all towards the ends of having consumers decide which new flavor of Mountain Dew would be mass produced. LeBron James had a well timed launch of his Twitter account that generated 300,000 followers faster than any other account, a re-launched website, and a Facebook page with 2.5 million followers soliciting questions that may be answered during ESPN’s “The Decision” primetime special. What brings all of these multi-tiered approaches together is very simple in concept– a seamless narrative that integrates each platform and asks users to participate.

Engagement is Achieved By Allowing Consumers to be Part of Creative.

The risk, and therefore courage, behind a commitment to engagement comes from the fact that engagement cannot occur unless a company is willing to open its doors a bit. For Colgate this meant looking to often crude and vulgar content generators to create their viral videos, as well as to potential customers to create the “face” of their brand. Mountain Dew probably opened their doors the most by having their consumer-base literally choose what product they wanted and how they wanted it to look. For James his openness comes from his willingness to answer personal questions via his Facebook page. In the end it is about achieving harmony between your personal business goals and the goals of your customers. Participation for the consumer quickly turns into an individual investment into the brand. This investment turns into long term loyalty and a higher likelihood that the consumer will develop into an advocate of the brand.

What About My Business?

All three brands mentioned here operate with a marketing budget significantly higher than most businesses. That said the concepts employed can be achieved for businesses of any size and for a very wide range of budgets. Outside of implementation time there is nothing inherently expensive about each campaign. And of course, like all things digital, its nothing you have to do all by yourself.

Advertising, Business X-Factors, Media, Social Media 1 Comment

From the Media Professor’s Dictionary #2

Information Asymmetry

Definition: At it’s simplest for sake of this exercise; information asymmetry is an imbalance in the amount of knowledge held between two or more parties prior to a purchase or negotiation.

Media Information

Example: A lot of things sold on Ebay. Sure, the picture may have a nice photo of a raincoat from one angle, but upon purchase the buyer learns that there is obviously more than meets the eye; there are several holes in the non-photographed lining of the coat.

What Can Marketers Do? The problem with this issue of asymmetry in a marketplace is that this behavior (once it becomes commonplace) bleeds into other forms of consumerism.  Soon, a jaded consumer may have a difficult time rationalizing the online purchase of goods.

It may sound simple, but creating early paradigm shifts by addressing unspoken obstacles may have significant effects on winning mindshare.  Exposition of assumed objections before they come to fruition can address Information Asymmetry.

Idea: If it can be speculated that a company may have resistance to a service industry because they aren’t truly sure what level of customer service/attention they will recieve, perhaps unannounced in every subsequent presentation this is addressed front and center.   Remove the ability for the target audience to take guesses to the answers they truly care about. There aren’t many mind readers in business these days so the job of uncovering objections pre-introduction may seem like a daunting task for the layman.  Conversational tracking and monitoring tools have become so robust these days that industry intelligence can be a simple report pull away.  Learn all of the things people communicate in casual settings to help develop your copy.  Taking the Donald Draper out of Marketing leaves data and true understanding that can come from extensive listening.

Advertising, Analytics, Media, Social Media No Comments

Is it a Sheep or a Pig? : Adwords Quality Score Sheared & Comprehended

Sheep pig photo

From the back, this creature looks like any ordinary sheep, as it wheels about you can tell that it is a very special animal. Compared to the common barnyard sow the sheep-pig is a creature that may seem like something conjured out of a drug-laden dream. Just looking at the sheep-pig it makes the whole world a little bit more confusing, but if shaved there is no mistake, this animal is a pig.

If you are beginning research on Google Adwords Quality Score, be forewarned that understanding the intricacies of this relevancy indicator may seem intimidating but underneath its wooly exterior is just another way for Google to bring home the bacon (relevancy to searchers).

Google’s Adword’s Quality Score by definition “helps ensure that only the most relevant ads appear to users on Google and the Google Network”. Before we go into more detail about what Quality Score is, let’s discuss why it was implemented in the first place. From the very beginning the Pay per Click model was built similar to an auction platform. This platform is where people would go to bid on items and whomever was willing to pay the most would win that time. For the pay per click model it was keywords that people were bidding on and the item they would win would be highest placement in the sponsored listings section. The higher up you were placed then the more likely your ad would be clicked on. What this meant was that the company with the most money wins. Not only were the companies who were willing to spend more money making more money, Google was making money off the click arbitrage. Google saw recognized flaws in their Adwords platform as they received complaints from advertisers.

bid management

This model was very similar to the Organic Search model that positioned companies at the top of the Search Engine’s based on an algorithm that could easily be manipulated. For organic search they changed the algorithm to give favoritism to those who met a certain criteria that provided better results for the consumer. This triggered Google to change their paid search program so that ads for products/services that best matched what the consumer was searching for would be served up at or near the top even if they did not have the highest bid. This is known as “Google’s Adwords Quality Score”, which by focusing on this, your company could run a more cost effective.

Here are just a few ways that you can feed your sheep-pig to keep it happy and healthy:


* Matching landing page heading and text header
* Landing page loads quickly
* Picture of products and/or services displayed on landing page
* Picture of products and/or services displayed on landing page
* Optimal path from landing page to conversion goal

These items are components of the three most important factors to determining quality score; click through rate, relevance, and landing page. CTR is arguably the most important criteria, and the best way to improve this is by writing better ad text and testing. By following these guidelines you will not only achieve a higher quality score but you will achieve higher conversion profit potential. When quality score goes up, you ad position goes up and your cost per click goes down. Any English speaking pig will clearly illustrate that when the feeding trough is lowered for them it’s easier to feed. Higher “Ad Rank” and a lower “Cost per Click” you can run a more successful campaign at a lower cost.

Here is a formula to help determine Ad Rank which defines Cost per Click.

Ad Rank = Max CPC Bid x Quality Score

In the examples below, you will see that Quality Score can affect not only your Ad Rank but also your cost per click. Example 1 shows that although you have the third highest bid you can still achieve the #1 position with a high quality score. Example 2 shows that by increasing your Quality Score while your bid remains the same you cost per click goes down as well as your Ad Rank goes up. Higher ad placement due to relevancy will result in higher click through rate which in turn should increase conversions.

quality score example

As you can see, it is now more important to meet the guidelines of the perfect quality score than to have highest budget. That is, if you want to run a highly optimized and successful paid search campaign in Google.

In shaving the proverbial sheep-pig, you can see that at its core, the qualitative factors of Google’s quality score is the same stinky pig that we’ve been dealing with in one form or another over the last decade. Take the time to understand how relevancy relates to bid cost and position and you’ll find yourself harvesting top quality pork products at your farm.


Retrieved April 3rd, 2010, from Google Adwords website:
Retrieved April 3, 2010, from Search Engine Land website:

Advertising, Paid Search No Comments

From the Media Professor’s Dictionary

Cognitive Dissonance

Definition: Simply put this term is a reference to a perceived difference in understanding that a person may feel contradictory to common belief.

Example: If Sally buys a pair of shoes on impulse and then later realizes that her favorite celebrity wouldn’t be caught dead in them, she may not carry the same brand or product loyalty the next time she purchases. Her thoughts that popular perception differs from her decision is an example of cognitive dissonance.

What Can Marketers Do? If people are disconnected from a brand experience when they are making a purchase, they may feel unsupported in the post-purchase stage of consuming. One way to give a socially active person a sense of brand pride and loyalty is to give them a chance to support you on their Facebook profile. Studies have shown that simply having a product/brand logo associated with a user’s social experience online not only stimulates brand advocacy but also combats buyers remorse.  A very simple, yet sticky Facebook app could help a sales cycle from top to bottom.

Advertising, Media, Social Media 3 Comments

Google’s Dropping Dimes with the Adwords Search Funnel

The Value of the Assist

Google Adwords Search Funnel Day 1 Review & Reactions

Included Below:

  • Key Features & Charts
  • The Google Assist
  • New Keyword Discovery
  • Bid Competition Lessening
  • Content Network Integration

It’s only natural that we would eventually have the opportunity to review a more complete attribution modeling. OMMA reports that that average searcher conducts 3.3 searches per session as an average and an average 74 searches per month. Yet, as any data junkie can attest, the principle of 80-20 is very much alive and well on the Internuts. That is, 20% of our keywords are providing 80% of our conversions. Call it instinct, trust, or Omniture, but most of us have known for quite some time that it’s simply not possible that last click tracking can tell us the whole story. There’s no chance that people simply rise out of a slumber and think to search for a brand or product SKU number.

Search Funnel Key Features & Charts


Path Length& Time Lag: Can be used to illustrate how many impressions or clicks are necessary to balance information asymmetry. These charts can be actionable in a number of ways. For example; if your impressions are FAR outweighing the amount of clicks it takes to get a conversion, you may need to review your ad headlines.


Assist Clicks & Impressions: This is really the meat and potatoes of this release because it finally opens up attributive data once thought to be a figment of marketer’s imaginations. Google teased us in 09 with a view-through patch, but this takes us a step closer to a live engagement map aligning last click metrics with assist points so that our keyword bid strategy can become more artistic.

GOOGLE Supply’s the Assist

In comes the mighty Google on a day when most people are discussing the iPad. Under the radar, Google released a reporting patch called ‘Search Funnels’. If you’re not familiar, Search Funnel snapshots allow you to not only see last click conversions, but also give a first click analysis and path analysis. For the first time you can see the string of paid search impressions and clicks that brought a user to convert on your site, amongst other things.


What It Means For the Future

Though it is a relatively innocuous reporting tool, the ramifications of Search Funnel Reporting are huge. Broad match search will now serve as a greater resource for discovering more distant levels of paid search influence. Paid search marketers will have the opportunity to discover only marginally relevant keywords that have a chain of influence factor without driving a last click conversion. This will mean that you could use Adwords as less of a primary direct marketing channel and implement prospecting standards. Keyword sets could be isolated based on their ability to fill the top of the funnel and drive later interest.


Competition Dispersion

Keywords are one of the most expensive buys you can make on the web; More so than display ads, SEO, or sponsored blogging. It’s not uncommon these days to see double digit CPCs for ‘must-have’ keywords. With the ability to see a greater extent of attributive keywords to conversions, there will be a vaster dispersing of keyword competition. Ad dollars can be spent more evenly in places that were otherwise unknown as resources.


Channel Integration

Adding search funnel capability was a major step in drawing in a full integrative marketing system, which is undoubtedly the core goal for Google Analytics. It’s a free service that longs to be thought of in the same regard as the more robust and exteriorly capable tracking and reporting platforms. This launch was pushed forth without an integration of the content network sourcing. Because everything seems to be sourced from the same legacy code, it’s a bit confusing why this release doesn’t have any content integration. Hopefully this is just a starting point and later features/channels will be amended.


As any of history’s greatest point guards will tell you, in the game of basketball you can win a game without ever scoring a single point. The same now holds true for a successful keyword. Long live the assist and the future of the search funnel.

Advertising, Analytics, Paid Search No Comments

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