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How Does That Ad Keep Following You All Over the Internet?

Banner advertising

We live in an age of true magic. I go to Tesco, scan my Clubcard for my points and then a month later I get coupons through my door for all the things I love. WHAT IS THIS WITCHCRAFT?!

It’s data, hun. Everything is data. We’re feeding companies data on our habits every time we go online or open Facebook. They use it to market to us and we usually get some benefit in return.

Sure, but what’s with the banners?

You may have heard of retargeting in relation to display or banner ads, which have been around a while – but this stuff’s got a WHOLE lot more clever in the last year or two. For a brand, one amazing way to use the data available about a potential customer is for retargeting.

Someone visits your website, has a bit of a mooch about and then leaves. Could be the end of a beautiful relationship, but not if you have retargeting ads. Through an affiliate that gets placements on other websites, your ad will appear to follow your wayward visitor around the internet.

Here’s what’s good about retargeting ads:

  • They build up awareness and recognition of your brand
  • They send traffic to your website
  • They can save you money by targeting your spend to the right people
  • They increase your conversions because people have more nudges towards buying

Isn’t that insanely annoying though?

It can be, if you don’t get it right. The important part of retargeting is in the name: it has to be targeted.

There are a few phrases you’ll find chucked around when you start looking into retargeting, all concerned with making sure your ads are doing what they’re supposed to and not driving prospects away.

Targeting pixels

This method of retargeting is based on behaviour, so you could say if a customer visits your site twice but doesn’t buy, they might be at a point in the relationship where they’d respond to a nudge and probably wouldn’t be annoyed to see your branding about the place.

A ‘pixel’ is dropped in their browser so that websites in your retargeting circle know to display your ad, and which one they should show based on what the visitor was interested in on your site.

You do this by putting different pixels on different pages of your site for ‘audience segmentation’ – basically sorting people by what they’re into. You get the most bang for your buck because visitor gets served the ad they’re most likely to respond to.

Frequency caps

Over-exposure to your ads is either going to pee people off or they’ll zone them out. If they’re not still not responding after a certain number of impressions, it’s clearly not going to happen. Save yourself some money and them their sanity – put a cap on the number of times any site visitor will see an ad.

Burn codes

A burn code is the self-destruct function for retargeting. Once a visitor you’ve been targeting has (YESSS!) turned into a customer, you don’t want to keep chucking ads at them. It’s not cost effective for you and it’s bloomin’ annoying for them when they already did what you asked.

Demographic and geographic targeting

These guys work before your perfect customer has even hit your website.

You can choose to sort prospects into even more groups: by demographic (age, sex etc.) and geography are the most common. This means you can run a series of ads just for male 18-year-olds and another for female 60-year-olds. It’s the best thing ever!

Contextual targeting also allows for the content of the site your ad will appear on. So, an article about DIY on the Telegraph website might show your ad about a sale you’re having on ladders.


Is it clever? Yup! Should you do it? Yup! Start with the DIY route by experimenting with Facebook’s banner ad capabilities. You can get to grips with targeting by demographic and geography before you decide whether you’d like to take your ads out into the big, wide internet.

Retargeting makes more of your display ad budget by getting higher quality impressions. Click To Tweet
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