Ads Acknowledging That They’re Retargeting: Creepy or Not?

Remarketing (or “retargeting” as Google calls it) can be creepy. Ads following you around? Algorithms knowing all about you and predicting what you want to hear or buy? It is creepy, for many reasons, perhaps because we don’t want to admit that we are that predictable because that admission makes us question our own humanity.

So how do you feel when ads follow you around and acknowledge it? Take this ad, that my friend Nathan Pabich recently saw:



What’s interesting about this is how direct and obvious it is about remarketing. Heck, it declares it in big letters there!

At first glance, this ad comes off creepy to me: it follows you around and it acknowledges it. Like the stalker who Tweets to you to tell you he is stalking you. Ugh!

On the other hand, upon thinking about it: perhaps it isn’t as creepy as I thought.


Targeting, targeting, targeting.

Basically, this ad is targeted at people who, like me (and Nathan, who originally saw it), know all about retargeting. So it is showing the weapon to the infantry soldier.

And thus, the creepiness turns from a bug into a feature: while a normie might think an ad with a huge machine gun is scary, the soldier who uses guns like that might think it is cool!

As a marketer, I see that and I think, “ah, ha! They are self-reflexive enough to admit this”, and I appreciate it.

What are the lessons we can take away from this?

The first is that there is a fine line between creepy and cool.

The second is that it is okay to admit the game you’re playing… it may not change their results.

The third is that different target markets have different reactions to different advertisements.

The main question I’m left with, upon seeing this ad, is how come they chose to use “retargeting” rather than “remarketing”? I think remarketing is more common, and it’s always what I say.

Or perhaps I’m wrong and remarketing isn’t as common as I think. Let’s use the tried-and-true method of seeing what is more common by seeing what Google tells us for the number of web pages that mention each. It tells me that there are 17.7 million pages that mention “retargeting” and 16.2 million that mention “remarketing.” So maybe then “remarketing” isn’t as common as I thought as a word, and they’re just using it either naturally or because they looked up to see what the more common word was.

Or, on the other hand, perhaps they are A/B testing it? Since this is an ad that explicitly is about online marketing best practices, I wouldn’t be surprised if they are eating their own dog food.

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