burning-money-e1340332352315The holiday retail season has kicked into full swing. And the only thing scarier than your daughter dressing up as Snookie or the prospects of another tumultuous Thanksgiving with the in-laws is the number of ways you can wastefully burn through your media budget if you’re not careful. Let’s take a look at five:

1) Retargeting an Existing Customer

At its best, retargeting is a great way to find new customers or compel previous site visitors to return. At its worst, it’s a stalking technique abused by marketers.

As consumers, we’ve all experienced it: that ad that stalks us around the Internet. The worst form is when a consumer has executed the marketer’s dream scenario and clicked on a retargeted ad and converted, but continues to be stalked by the same ad. No later than last week, I was shopping around for car rentals in Hawaii. I was retargeted by an Hertz ad that featured a free upgrade. I went to hertz.com, booked the car I was looking for, and got my free upgrade. Beautiful. But I’ve been seeing Hertz banners ever since. Not only is this wasteful marketing, it’s also downright annoying. More so than those in-laws or when your kid refuses to eat anything but cranberry sauce.

Solution: Add exclusion pixels to your retargeting efforts. This will prevent you from retargeting consumers who have already converted.

2) Gender Mistargeting (Like Serving Men Tampon Ads)


When running gender-specific campaigns, you’d imagine that advertisers would pay very close attention to demographic data. After all, it’s some of the cheapest data out there; data providers such as Exelate and BlueKai make it readily available at a low cost. Some publishers have access to that type of data, too. There’s really no excuse anymore for showing a dude a tampon ad, but it still happens. No guy wants tampons — in their stockings or their web-browsing experience.

Gender mistargeting happens in other contexts, too. A woman visiting ESPN to get caught up on all the NFL action shouldn’t be served male-focused ads. Some people call this an ‘edge case,’ but there are a lot of female sports fans out there. And very often, they’re being served wasted impressions.

Solution: Buy gender data from the likes of Exelate and BlueKai. This is one of the cheapest type of data from 1/3 party data aggregators. It’s worth the investment. Alternatively many vendors are building proprietary profiles. For instance, at Chango we will determine whether consumers are male or female based on the type of search they’ve run or the type of site they’ve visited.

3) Targeting Clickers

Click-based models open our sector up to fraud. Per eMarketer, some 37% of web traffic stems from non-humans, translating to $6 billion in fraud perpetuated on digital advertisers. It’s time to ask an uncomfortable question: Given our emphasis on clicks, does the site retargeting industry contribute to this scourge?

The site retargeting industry favors a CPC pricing scenarios for the simple reason it doesn’t take much to convert consumers who are actively in market for a product. It’s an easy way for a retargeter to make money.

But this strategy does little to promote incremental revenue. Marketing, at the end of the day, should focus on helping brands engage new customers and build lifelong relationships with them. Targeting in-market consumers who already know the brand misses the mark.

4) Ads That Aren’t In-View

According to Integral Ad Science (formerly AdSafe Media), more than half of online ads aren’t legitimately in view to users. Shocking, right? That figure rises to 60% when it comes to exchanges. If you’re not careful, you may be spending a whole lot of money on ads that no one sees.

Solution: Integral Ad Science is the best in the business when it comes to ensuring that your ads are seen. Get in touch.

5) All Those Other Silly Things That Still Happen

There are a lot of other silly mistakes we see going on, though it’s hard to fathom why.

Wrong geo-targeting: Wow, there’s a sale on mattresses in Chicago? Too bad I’m in New York.

Getting drunk and singing “Say My Name” karaoke in your boxers at the company Christmas party: This definitely didn’t happen to me.

Wrong creative: In the run-up to a campaign going live, things get crazy. Errors happen. Creative for old campaigns might be used accidentally. No one wants to buy Madden 2011 this holiday season.

Broken landing page URLs: This is my personal favorite. Despite all the quality-assurance hype spewed by media vendors, it can still happen. And does.

Solution: Hire the right people, put the right processes in place and make sure that your vendors are accountable and working 100% on your behalf.

Cut out these five missteps, and you’ll be on your way to getting much more out of your media budget this holiday season. For more on what marketers really think about retargeting, check out Chango/Digiday’s Retargeting Barometer.

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Ben Plomion
- Ben Plomion is VP of Marketing & Partnerships at Chango, where he heads up marketing and is also responsible for expanding the company’s data and media partnerships. Prior to joining Chango, Ben worked with GE Capital for four years to establish and lead the digital media practice. Before GE, Ben held a variety of Marketing & Business Development roles in the e-payments industry, while working at Gemalto in London. He writes frequently for Digiday, CMO.com and Search Engine Watch.