The Ethics of Remarketing

This week Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) came up with yet another great question set titled “The Ethics of Remarketing.” The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: From a user perspective, what do you think the general consensuses is on remarketing? Why?

  • I still think many users are oblivious. – Heather Cooan (@HeatherCooan)
  • First reaction is that it’s creepy. Then I think it just becomes normal. – Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
  • Users are wary of being tracked, w/o knowing the methods. They hear big data & cookies, but don’t know what we are doing w/ it. – Chris Kostecki (@chriskos)
  • Generally I think people don’t like it. Simply put someone else gathering info on their habits is perceived as creepy. – Jesse Semchuck (@jessesem)
  • I think marketers often overestimate how many people actually LOOK at ads. Esp on Display. People lump all “tracking” into one “privacy concerns” bucket. – Theresa Zook (@I_Marketer)
  • I feel most people think they are spammy since there usually isn’t an enforced impr limit, or they’re executed poorly. – Gil Hong (@ghong_ssm)
  • #1 Creepy, #2 Privacy Concerns, #3 Are they offering me a discount? – James Svoboda (@Realicity)
  • Users likely find it annoying to be followed around the net by the same banner. So frequency setting is important. – Andrew McGarry (@beyondcontent)
  • I think those that are aware freak out (not all, but many), and those that aren’t aware don’t even notice display ads. – Michelle Morgan (@michellemsem)
  • For those who are aware, most I’ve encountered think it is kind of creepy, esp with all the privacy issues in the news lately. – Julie Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon)
  • When they actually know what it is they usually have a negative response. “Don’t track me”, etc. – Kirk Williams (@KECreate)
  • As retargeting evolves, I worry about people trying to game it, and waiting to buy until they get that code or email. – Jesse Semchuck
  • I think the biggest problem is some people are so paranoid they thing someone is staring back at them through their computer. – Michelle Morgan
  • Users will say they hate all advertising (not just remarketing) and would rather it wasn’t there. – Richard Fergie (@RichardFergie)
  • Stalker ads which are slowly becoming slightly less creepy. – Nicole Mintiens (@Tregesy)
  • I think users are indifferent, we’re concerned when remarketing first began, but now are somewhat OK with it. – Matt Umbro
    • Yup, especially since many have caught on about abandoned shopping carts and bribes. – Heather Cooan
  • If a user detects that their actions are triggering ads, they probably freak out. it is our job to be more subtle. – Chris Kostecki
    • Totally agree. If all marketers were better-trained, the “re” in “remarketing” wldn’t be so obvious. – Theresa Zook
  • Personally, I like to grade each remarketers ads. Good CTA? Consistent? Discount? LP used when I’m really into it. – Michelle Morgan
  • I think it feels for some like it breaks that wall of anonymity that people like about online shopping. It is on their terms. – Julie Bacchini
  • Consumers think they’re being followed. People say they don’t like it but seem to put up with it anyway. – Steve Hill (@epiclysteve)
  • I wonder how the average user mentality towards remarketing, compares to targeted ads on FB. More/Less/Equally creepy? – Gil Hong
  • Basically people are fine with advertising for products they want or are interested in. Not so much everything else. – Richard Fergie
    • Totally agree. If it’s what they want, they usually don’t worry about being “followed”. – Michelle Morgan
  • I think Ads appearing in an email chain ABOUT the email chain hasn’t helped! – George Brown (@GeorgeWB23)
  • Users are unaware of how remarketing or what it is in general. As people understand it I imagine the effect will be reduced. – Andrew Bethel (@AndrewPPC)
  • I go back to the example of travel offering luxury filters to iOS traffic and they thought they were being singled out. – Chris Kostecki
  • Personally I feel important because companies are following me online. – Matt Umbro
  • I hear comments from family along the lines of “Why is this ad following me?” Means remarketing not done well. – Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
    • Had trouble w/a client over that. They wanted blanket coverage–I had to argue for capping impressions. They didn’t get it. – Theresa Zook
  • We get phone calls on occasion from angry customers that want us to “stop following them around on the internet." – Matt Mitchell (@MattMitchell44)
    • A client once forwarded me an angry email from a consumer 🙂 – the client thought it was funny. – Matt Umbro
  • Generally I feel like consumers have strong opinions, but take few steps (read privacy policy, AdBlock, etc.) – Robert Brady
  • Programmatic personalization is the future. Advertising is about serving the right ad, to the right person, at the right time. – Jesse Semchuck
  • After being in the driver seat, Im hesitant to visit sites when Im logged into my Gmail. Bcuz I know I’ll see their ads later. – Dave Rosborough (@daverosborough)
  • I think people appreciate remarketing when done well…especially if it is something helpful, interesting, or funny. – Brad Bridges (@bradbridges)

Q2: Understanding that the obvious answer is “it depends,” what do you set your frequency capping settings to?

  • 3-5 imp./day/user/ad. – Heather Cooan
  • Sometimes 1 per day for each of 3 or 4 ads. – Steve Cameron
  • For one client, 3/day. For another, 6/week. – Theresa Zook
  • Generally 3 times per day. – Timothy Jensen
  • Usually 3-4 if the ad creative isn’t too jarring/disruptive. – Gil Hong
  • Err on the conservaitve side, sing digit imps/day. – Chris Kostecki
  • I used to do 5 per day but now down to 5 per week sometimes. It depends. – Melissa Mackey
  • 5 per day. – Jesse Semchuck
    • At the ad, ad group, or campaign level? – Matt Umbro
  • Make buckets based on recency of visit. As time goes by show ads less and less. 3+ per day to start, then down to 3 / wk. – Rory Witt (@Rory_Witt)
  • Less than 10/day 99% of time. – James Svoboda
  • How many impressions do you feel are totally unnoticed?
    • I bet it’s like 90%. – Melissa Mackey
    • If I’m just browsing I’m pretty sure I pay no attention to probably 50-75% of the ads. Assuming its similar for most users. – John Budzynski (@Budzynski)
    • Seems like we want users to *SEE* 3-5 imp./day, so setting should be higher. – Robert Brady
  • My “rough” frequency capping average is 6.5123378 times per ad group per day per ad group. – Steve Hill
  • The max amount I could stand before getting annoyed as a user (generally 3-5/day). – Nicole Mintiens
  • 3-7 impressions per day/per ad. It is a bit aggressive, but we start there and scale back based on engagement metrics. – Disruptive Ads (@DisruptiveAds)
  • I set mine to 3 at the moment. Agree with single digit imps/day. – Andrew McGarry
  • Segment adgroups into time durations. Optimize for the more likely to convert (recency). – Andrew Bethel
  • Depends on typical length of sales cycle and average urgency of the need for product/service. – Julie Bacchini
  • Sometimes run branding exposure that goes higher (rm off email, new traffic, or press release). – Chris Kostecki
  • Aside from an email or call, has anyone seen any extremely negative consequences for too much remarketing?
    • I have had clients complain about seeing their ads all over the place. Some of them get pretty PO’d. – Melissa Mackey
    • I got a form submission one time that was a rant about government surveillance and a bunch of 1984 stuff. It was funny. People really don’t seem to grasp the fact that going on to someone’s web property gives them the right to track what you do there. – Steve Hill
    • If a competitor has a similar name, their poor execution can impact your client. We’ve had it happen on more than one occasion. – Julie Bacchini

Q3: How aggressive is your remarketing messaging for sensitive topics (ie: legal issues, pharmaceuticals, etc)?

  • Had 1 legal client where the whole remarketing issue just made me uneasy. Don’t like it for sensitive topics. – Theresa Zook
  • I kept it light, like a general branding ad until Google disabled my lists. (Pharm). – Heather Cooan
  • We “were” treading lightly with our messaging and LP, but google recently disapproved our audience lists for “policy violation” – Gil Hong
  • No remarketing for those. Can cause too many problems. Client’s brand can be damaged due to a poorly placed ad. – Michelle Morgan
  • Keep it neutral. – George Brown
  • Not as aggressive as I’d like to be. – Brian Gasper (@BGaspar)
  • I play the “spouse card” w/ creative: what if 1 triggerd ad and other saw it…will your ad cause a conversation? (should it?) – Chris Kostecki
    • That’s a really great point, especially if divorce lawyer, yikes! – Matt Umbro
    • Where to draw the line if it is making lots of money?- Richard Fergie
  • Not running Remarketing for those segments, but aggressively stressing time lines for legal issues could be important. – John Budzynski
  • Google shut down one of my pharmaceutical clients before, so I am really careful with it now. – Christina Hall (@Chrissie_Hall85)
  • I deal with health products all day. I lean towards aggressive on discounts / honest on product benefits. No magic pill talk. – Jesse Semchuck
  • Used to have an STD test client but didnt feel good doing remarketing. Pretty sure it would have ruined some relationships. – Noah Brooks (@noahbrooks)

Q4: In this article by Robert Brady, he suggests that as advertisers we should not use discounts in remarketing ads as to not encourage consumers only looking for discounts. What do you think?

  • I think you have to walk a fine line. IF consumers get used to a discount if they “abandon carts” then destroy revenue. – Bryant Garvin (@BryantGarvin)
  • Neither. I say test and see what works for you. If you can make a profit w/discounts, do it! – Melissa Mackey
  • Well, what % of active chatters here today admitted to trying to trigger remarketing to get discounts? I’d say he’s right. – Theresa Zook
  • Offers lead to a race to the bottom, but there is money to be made. More sustainable to find other value besides discounts. – Chris Kostecki
    • Absolutely agree Chris! Find other ways to entice them back besides just immediately offering a discount! – Bryant Garvin
  • I think everyone here should agree with it. OK? That way I can dominate CTRs on my ads promoting a discount. – Josh Kimber (@joshkimber)
  • Is there anything wrong with a small percent of customers waiting for ads with discounts to buy as long as they still pick you? – Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)
    • But for how long will the % remain “small.” More & more people will figure this out. – Theresa Zook
      • I guess I’m skeptical that any significant portion of the population has figured out. – Timothy Jensen
        • Not today, but in a year? A tells B who tells C & D who tell E & F & G & H, etc. – Theresa Zook
  • You could argue the same with sending out discount coupon emails when signed up users abandon carts. – Gil Hong
  • Remember, we are not the average user. Most ppl unaware of remarketing at all, much less how it works.- Melissa Mackey
  • Offering free gifts is good too, especially if you have a bunch of chachkees lying around. – Matt Umbro
  • Yes, for customers (people that have converted). No, for potential customers. – James Svoboda
  • If my business was all about unique customers, Id consider offering repeat visits a discount. – Dave Rosborough
  • Until it doesn’t deliver an ROI, discount retargeting will always win for ecommerce. – Jesse Semchuck
  • We setup and dismanteled a Deal of the Week page and incentivize return purchases and loyalty. – Chris Kostecki
  • There may be a day where users are aware of what’s going on ROI will drop, but we aren’t there yet. – Jesse Semchuck
  • Stack em up! Discount campaign, then transfer to loyalty campaign. – Heather Cooan
  • Ultimately it’s about segmentation. If you know where they are in the funnel you can decide if a discount is appropriate. – Steve (@Danger_Mouse)
  • I disagree that frequency is something people directly relate with creepy. – Stuart Draper (@Stu_Draper)
  • I think that’s more a matter of the psychology of your customer base than anything else. – Steve Hill
  • If I see an ad over an over again I am more likely to correlate that with deep pocket advertisers not creepy advertisers. Stuart Draper
  • I disagree with the concept of eroding brand with discounting all together…look at Old Navy. It’s part of their brand. – Heather Cooan
  • I have made purchases because of the improved price point. Positive ROI will rule. Robert Brady makes a good point though. – Brett Stevens (@BrettStevens1)

Q5: Do you believe in the notion of sending tons of traffic to your site in order to increase remarketing lists? Why or why not?

  • Only targeted traffic, I often use display to refresh/build lists. – Heather Cooan
  • Similar to lists are good for this – followed by remarketing. – Steve Cameron
  • No. Segmentation and visitor intent need to be identified for good results. – James Svoboda
  • No. Better to send less traffic but that more likely to conv. Random visitors are a waste of time. – Theresa Zook
  • Obviously, depends on the list. And the CPCs. – Richard Fergie
  • Ultimately, I’m going for the opposite.. I want my lists to be as refined as possible, rather than a huge mass. – Dave Rosborough
  • No. Site traffic should focus on bottom line value. Expand remarketing reach with lookalike analysis instead. – Chris Haleua (@chrishaleua)
  • If you want less specific display traffic just run GDN, not try and explode your site traffic. – Bryant Garvin
  • If “sending tons of traffic to your site” = high potential to convert traffic, yes. If its traffic for traffic sake, no dice. – Josh Kimber
  • Only if the audience is just short of its requirement to start showing ads. – Gil Hong
  • Only for the purpose of increasing list size? No. But spikes in relevant traffic are ALWAYS a good thing for remarketing. – Neil Sorenson (@iNeils)
  • If branding is the goal, typically yes, but there are better uses of limited time when conversions are your focus. – Steve Hill
  • Relevancy matters more than quantity. You will just be wasting money if you only care about volume. – Brett Stevens
  • Haven’t done this, not sure I would. – Melissa Mackey
  • The more specific the list is the better results you will get. – Derek Ostler (@DerekOstler)
  • If business has a well defined ‘trigger’ then it could work. E.g. build list for valentine’s day in the middle of the year. – Richard Fergie
  • In my experience, opening the floodgates for remarketing traffic has not worked. – Matt Umbro
    • It defeats the purpose of remarketing really, which is very refined audiences really”¦ for broader we have GDN, FB etc. – Bryant Garvin
  • Only if it’s qualified traffic. 😉 I’d rather wait a get a list of people more apt to spend to remarket to. – Brian Gaspar
  • Limited value in remarketing to people who are the wrong segment. – Steve

Q6:Do you believe Google’s remarketing policy is too strict? Not strict enough? Why?

  • I think it’s going to get more strict as the courts decide what they will tolerate. – Heather Cooan
  • It’s getting stricter, for the first time I’m seeing audience lists get disapproved. – Matt Umbro
  • Not remotely strict enough. System needs built-in caps, for one thing. – Theresa Zook
  • Needs to be much stricter. They’ve been playing fast and loose for too long. – George Gilmer (@GeorgeGilmer)
  • I think it’s too vague. I had a hard time trying to dispute my audience disapprovals when they’ve been running for 2 years! – Gil Hong
  • Bad apples spoil the whole bunch. Seems like most policies come about because someone abused their freedom. – Steve Hill
  • I think the courts will push Google to be more strict. It’s been the Wild West. – Robert Brady
  • Only definitive disapprovals I’ve seen have been for pharmaceuticals, even over the counter stuff. – Matt Umbro
    • From my understanding, anything that “implies” some health issue is nixed. Even vitamins/supplements. – Gil Hong
  • Never will be strict enough. As time goes on and new instances occur it will only get more strict. – Brian Gaspar
  • Remarketing isn’t as strict as Google Shopping yet – these regulations are strictly enforced. – Matt Umbro

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Don’t forget to stay tuned for the next #PPCchat on Tuesday at 12 noon Eastern, 9 am Pacific and 5pm in the UK. Same Chat time, same Chat channel.


Check out the PPCChat Twitter list to see and connect with all current and prior participants.

• Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro)
• James Svoboda (@Realicity)
• Paul Kragthorpe (@PaulKragthorpe)
• Andrew Bethel (@AndrewPPC)
• Andrew McGarry (@beyondcontent)
• Brad Bridges (@bradbridges)
• Brett Stevens (@BrettStevens1)
• Brian Gasper (@BGaspar)
• Chris Haleua (@chrishaleua)
• Chris Kostecki (@chriskos)
• Christina Hall (@Chrissie_Hall85)
• Dave Rosborough (@daverosborough)
• Derek Ostler (@DerekOstler)
• Disruptive Ads (@DisruptiveAds)
• George Brown (@GeorgeWB23)
• George Gilmer (@GeorgeGilmer)
• Gil Hong (@ghong_ssm)
• Heather Cooan (@HeatherCooan)
• Jesse Semchuck (@jessesem)
• John Budzynski (@Budzynski)
• Josh Kimber (@joshkimber)
• Julie Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon)
• Kirk Williams (@KECreate)
• Matt Mitchell (@MattMitchell44)
• Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
• Michelle Morgan (@michellemsem)
• Neil Sorenson (@iNeils)
• Nicole Mintiens (@Tregesy)
• Noah Brooks (@noahbrooks)
• Richard Fergie (@RichardFergie)
• Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
• Rory Witt (@Rory_Witt)
• Steve (@Danger_Mouse)
• Steve Hill (@epiclysteve)
• Stuart Draper (@Stu_Draper)
• Theresa Zook (@I_Marketer)
• Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)

No Ethics Here, Only Streamcaps

This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe; WebRanking SEM Manager in Minneapolis, Minnesota, #PPCChat Streamcap Grabber, SEO Blog Author. Connect with me @PaulKragthorpe, and Google Plus.

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