Study: What Actual Marketers Feel About Retargeting, FBX & More

I have very strong opinions about retargeting, as regular readers will know! Marketers seem to be on a crazy high these days, obsessed with the idea that their path to success is to spend more on site retargeting and keep finding ways to increase their audience pool or boost frequency caps to obscene levels.

More spend is better? Garbage! Smarter spending is better.

Over the last two years, I have discussed why marketers should cut their site retargeting budget, how programmatic marketing executions can change retargeting forever and, in a recent iMedia article, why retargeting is fundamentally broken.

But, these are just my opinions; and so, the team at Chango refreshed the Retargeting Barometer, asking more than 50 marketers and agencies what they really think of retargeting today.

Buying Retargeting Directly

Retargeting barometer results

The first surprise for me was the rate at which marketers are moving from buying retargeting through their agency to buying it directly from vendors (58%).

About 7 years ago, I was running the European arm of a major ad server, and we were just beginning to see the same type of pattern. Our business was 80%+ agencies, but the incoming leads were nearly all brands — and now the majority of ad server accounts are held by the brands.

The reason? Marketers want control of their own data, and they also want consistency in these core programs, even if they part ways with their agency.

That’s troubling news for agencies, who are already struggling to find new ways to prove their value in this rapidly changing ecosystem. But, as I often help agencies to understand, all is not lost for them — many marketers still need the execution and creative services that agencies bring. If agencies begin to realize that clients want smarter buying, not “more” buying, there are other ways for them to win, too (as outlined in the iMedia article above).

Email Retargeting: The Great, Big Missed Opportunity

Retargeting barometer results

At industry events, I will often ask the audience how many are using email retargeting — and I’ve yet to ever see a room where the response is more than 10%!

Email retargeting is simple: someone receives your email, is cookied and added to your retargeting pool — this allows the marketer to retarget them with display ads just as they do with site retargeting.

If you tag your emails correctly, you can show a custom display ad to each individual depending on what email they interacted with. Given that there is no additional cost or technology involved with this tactic, it never ceases to amaze me how infrequently it is used.

Search Retargeting Has Well & Truly Arrived

For clarity, search retargeting is the idea that an individual has performed a search on Google, Yahoo or Bing, but not yet visited your site. They are expressing the right intent; and so, we target them on behalf of clients with a display ad to win their business.

Of the Barometer’s respondents, 45% reported using search retargeting now — with 92% saying it was increasing revenue and 68% reporting greater on-site engagement. What was interesting was that a whopping 50% are also using it for brand awareness. Given that there are no restrictions on using competitor terms, 58% are sneakily pilfering directly from their competitors.

Budgets Are Getting Bigger – But That Worries Me

Not a single respondent reported that their budget for site retargeting or search retargeting would be decreasing over the next 12 months. I should be delighted; but actually, this worries me.

I worry that, with site retargeting, in particular, marketers are going to increase their budgets for all the wrong reasons — because the wool is being pulled over their eyes about what site retargeting is actually doing — rather than because they are using a proper scientific measure to look at the incremental value. We shall see where the industry shakes out on this one.

Let’s Welcome FBX To The Party

Retargeting Barometer resultsSince their launch late last year, FBX have done a great job of making noise (supported greatly by the 13 of us that were chosen as early, named PMD partners), and marketers have certainly listened.

For the first few months, it was the retargeting companies that dominated the space — given that their contracts with brands often allowed them free reign over where they placed ads and what creative ad units they used — it was a no-brainer, really.

This is at least partly responsible for all but one marketer surveyed reporting that their FBX budget would be staying the same, or increasing, over the year to come; but, I bet with the upcoming launch of newsfeed content being added to FBX, Chango’s next refresh of the Barometer will show an even higher percentage increasing their spend.

To Wrap Up…

Retargeting is big. Retargeting has driven a lot of display spending that otherwise would not have occurred. Retargeting is more than just site retargeting — it is also search retargeting and email retargeting. It is being used primarily for customer acquisition, but also for boosting branding and awareness.

Because of all of this, budgets are increasing, and at a quicker rate than before. But, have caution: don’t just spend more for the sake of spending more, spend smarter instead.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Search & Display | Search Ads


About The Author: is the Chief Strategy Officer at Chango, the solution to programmatic marketing and "big data", and is based in San Francisco and London. You can follow him on Twitter @DaxHamman.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter


Get all the top search stories emailed daily!  


Other ways to share:

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • Pat Grady

    Our clients get giddy about the numbers, and want it cranked up higher – like you, we’re looking at attribution more deeply, and advising them to ignore the shiny object. It’s not dull, but it’s not shiny either. To us, with affiliate channel depth, it’s so familiar to the affiliate coupon site when it comes to attribution, that it feels like deja vu… or should I say deja view.

  • Pat Grady

    Predictions: trending in 2013: “pixel proliferation”, “receipt page graffiti”, “remunching”…

  • Dax Hamman

    Ha, great response Pat!

  • Jeff Lesser

    Hey Dax,

    Great article, I’ve previously considered email retargeting but from what I’ve heard including the javascript to cookie the user in the email makes it much more likely to be marked as spam and enough emails sent with it can eventually result in ending up on a blacklist. What is your experience with that if any?

  • Mandy Young

    Hi Dax, really interesting and hopefully you might be able to help me on
    a query. My agency uses behavioral targeting for our media campaigns. I wanted
    to have some research carried out to better understand our potential
    customers’ path to purchase and to also get some better info in terms of
    decision maker versus the person making the booking. The feedback seems
    to be that the research wouldn’t be beneficial in terms of of media
    campaign, because they use behavioral targeting – do you have any
    thoughts on this?

  • Dax Hamman

    It’s a fair concern, and it can be an issue. I used to run an email service provider, but it’s been quite a few years, and so am behind in the current rules and best practice guidelines. All I can say accurately is that we haven’t had much negative feedback from clients about blocking issues, or changes in their audience’s behavior.

  • Dax Hamman

    Hi Mandy – ping me on my email, just dax@ and then, will help if I can.

  • Christina Park

    Hi Dax,

    Couldn’t agree more that marketers should be smarter about spending on retargeting. That’s why I’m very encouraged to see that 60% of marketers in your survey say they’ll increase spend on FBX in the next 6 months. Triggit (where I work) also did a study that found there’s less than a 10% overlap in the cookie pool for large advertisers in any vertical on FBX – retail and travel. Not only that, but with relatively low competition, our average win rate on FBX is 70%+ while every position on the right hand side yields 2-5x higher CTRs with dynamic creative optimizations compared to standard marketplace ads. The smartest marketers in the room know this.. glad they’re in good company! For anyone who’s interested, here’s some more smart data on retargeting on FBX:


Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Search Engine Land on Twitter @sengineland Like Search Engine Land on Facebook Follow Search Engine Land on Google+ Get the Search Engine Land Feed Connect with Search Engine Land on LinkedIn Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest


Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States


Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech

Free Daily Search News Recap!

SearchCap is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!



Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Get Your Copy
Read The Full SEO Guide