Is Predictive Targeting the Way of the Future?

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Most digital marketers are familiar with the term “retargeting,” a tactic that allows us to show ads to individuals who have visited our website or exist already in our database. Retargeting can be done through display ads on Google, Yahoo and Bing as well as on Facebook via Facebook Exchange or Custom Audiences.

Retargeting can be particularly effective, if not creepy, for prospective customers in the e-commerce world. Many of us have had the experience where we placed a pair of shoes in our virtual shopping cart, then abandoned the site, only to see that exact pair of shoes following us across the web for weeks.

But how effective is retargeting, really? In an article published yesterday on AdAge, Tom Goodwin – CEO of London-based agency Tomorrow Group – argues that retargeting is not effective, and the way of the future is pretargeting. Goodwin argues that retargeting is based on actions users have already taken, and these users are not likely to act again. He writes, “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.”

Goodwin also claims that Paid Search, while it is the only opportunity to address people at their moment of need, will be trumped by “converting needs we don’t yet know we have.” Enter: predictive advertising, or pretargeting.

Prospective customers are painting accurate pictures of their lives, Goodwin claims, by liking posts on Facebook and sharing information across devices, among all of the other ways they transmit information across the web. Data that we share about ourselves through online behaviors can be used to show us ads with the right message at the right time. Goodwin gives several examples:

“It will be the coffee shop suggested when you have time and it’s about to rain; the Taxi2 ridesharing app telling you someone else wants to go the same way as it thinks you do; the car garage that will repair the problem only your car knows it has; the train times when snow blocks your route to work; the meal special offer when your friends are close and your calendar is free.”

Some ad companies are already taking advantage of new technology that enables predictive targeting. ViralHeat provides “sophisticated predictive social analytics” to uncover users who are mentioning a brand in real-time. used various data sources, both internal e.g. surfing behavior on publisher client’s site, as well external data to develop statistical models of a target audience group.

If all of this sounds a little complicated, and unproven, that’s because it’s so new and constantly evolving. Mr. Goodwin writes that we should “accept that privacy is a lost battle” and embrace the act of sharing information to further general acceptance of pretargeting. The benefit for marketers is obvious, but what about for consumers? Take a look at’s Consumer Portal, where it allows users to opt-out or in to its advertising:

Yes, I would like to continue to have advertising relevant to my interests displayed and I consent to theme-based analysis of my surfing habits by This consent is restricted to one year (“Opt-In“).

No, I do not want nugg-ad to continue theme-based analysis of my surfing habits on websites. This Opt-Out is stored as a cookie in my browser and has a lifespan of ten years. The user is responsible for ensuring that the appropriate cookie is not deleted from his browser as long as he wishes the Opt-Out to be valid. The (“Opt-Out“) is stored in a cookie with the name “nuggstopp“.

The argument is that most consumers will want to share information in order to see more relevant ads. But the consumer consensus on this has yet to be seen.

Further reading:

-Posted by Elizabeth Pace

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