Retargeting companies should go out of business (but won’t)

Last year, I predicted the sudden and precipitous collapse of retargeting vendors like FetchBack, Retargeter and AdRoll. Given they’re all still around and doing well, it does seem like I was wrong. Fortunately, I never claimed this in print, so no one can make fun of me for the outrageously wrong prediction.

Oh wait… oops!

My reasoning was simple – Google launched a Retargeting solution 18 months ago. Of course, they don’t call it Retargeting; they call it Remarketing: because the Product Naming Committee needs to justify their paychecks, even at Google. It could be that they didn’t like the word ‘targeting’, preferring the more innocuous-sounding word ‘marketing’ – but the fact remains, Google has made the dark art of retargeting accessible to all advertisers – no intermediaries required.

What’s more, Google’s solution offers you all the flexibility you could ever need. Just follow their instructions, and you can show retargeting ads to the only 200 visitors that saw Product A, and did not see Product B, but did not put Product C into the shopping cart, and did not end up buy anything. In fact, you can even choose to show a different ad to the 20 of these 200 people if they happen to be visiting a sports blog, but a different one to the 50 that specifically went to a specific sports blog, say ESPN Sports Center blog.

I’m not even kidding!

Of course, it took our engineering team, who knows this sh** inside out, a couple of months to finally get the system to work. Now that we’ve figured it out, it works beautifully! But we don’t believe there are too many other people who could figure this one out, and make it work, without a lot of expert help.

And so, retargeting companies, you’ll survive. Until Google really decides it needs to simplify their UI, processes, documentation, and fix the many bugs in the system.

I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one.

Or, hold your breath at least until Vurve decides to come after you! (Kidding, kidding, we’re only helping small businesses right now!)



2 thoughts on “Retargeting companies should go out of business (but won’t)

  1. Hey Amit–it’s your buddy, Aaron, from AdRoll. You bring up a good point that with AdWords you can configure sophisticated boolean segmenting and content targeting. Unfortunately for them, the process is overly complicated and out of reach or time for most marketers. We find that when you provide tools brands that can actually be harnessed, you see the big improvements in ROI.

    In addition to being hard to use, AdWords doesn’t have cross network reach, doesn’t facilitate dynamic creative, doesn’t support the broad range of pricing models, doesn’t support A/B testing of cookie pools… and more. Also, you’re left in the cold if you need service or help. Also, with good cross-network reach, retargeting can work very well for SMBs–we’ve had success with local businesses too–we should talk!

  2. Nice writeup, Amit.

    I think Google’s service has done a lot to legitimize the retargeting space. Going with the ‘remarketing’ name was very smart as well. While their service is super customizable from a user perspective, you said “it took our engineering team, who knows this sh** inside out, a couple of months to finally get the system to work.” There are also numerous other key advantages that retargeting companies have.

    I can speak for myself and ReTargeter (I work there):

    1. We pride ourselves in customer service, and can get advertisers up an running much quicker than a couple of months. We have actual humans work with all of our advertisers to help them reach their goals. Ultimately, it’s about our customers, and we aim to deliver the best possible customer experience to each one of them. Zappos and Nordstrom are our biggest competitors.

    2. We already have access to Google’s inventory, as well as dozens of other inventory sources, including Right Media, OpenX, Fox Audience Network, Microsoft AdECN.

    3. We are more dynamic on the creative side, and can serve HTML/HTML5 ads, ads with social capabilities, rich media ads, personalized ads, etc.

    4. We have a lot of amazing, proprietary things in our product pipeline that are aimed to add a tremendous value to your customers. I don’t believe any other retargeting company out there will or can do what we’re working on (especially Google, they’re not so agile).

    As I said, I can only speak for ReTargeter, but we’re ultimately here to make our customers happy. We are doing well as a company, but that’s only because we’ve invested so heavily into the relationships that we have with every single person who works with us. The way I see it – yes, Google has great technical retargeting capabilities, but their product as a whole is missing a few big things.

    If people are looking to dabble with retargeting/remarketing to a few hundred of their sites visitors, I think that Google’s solution is definitely a great place to start. But there’s a lot of value being left on the table if an advertiser seriously chooses to use Google’s remarketing heavily within a fleshed out marketing strategy.

    If I can ever be helpful to you with anything, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

    – Samir Soriano
    Director of Marketing at ReTargeter

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