Online Advertising: Specific or Generic?


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I recently enjoyed an article titled, “When Does Retargeting Work? Information Specificity in Online Advertising” in the Journal of Marketing Research, October 2013, authored by Anja Lambrecht and Catherine Tucker. I learned some new online advertising terminology: standard banner ads, personalized recommendation, and dynamic retargeting. In fact, prior to reading this article I hadn’t given the different types of banner ads much thought.

However, I had noticed that if I happened to search for a product or service online, the next time I would browse the internet, I would see several related categorical ads or even ads specific to the product/service I had searched. For example, the other day I read a post on Facebook about someone using Shakeology. There were quite a few comments in response about the efficacy, price, and taste. I had no idea what Shakeology was and so I decided to find out online. This may have been a crucial mistake on my part – because now EVERY time I go on the internet I see advertisements related to weight loss shakes. Let me tell you that does not do a lot to boost one’s self confidence.

If you are involved or interested in targeted online advertising, I would recommend you read this article. I found the most surprising finding to be that dynamic retargeting (taking a specific personalized recommendation and putting it on external sites) was only found to be more effective than generic advertisements if the consumer was farther along in the buying process (i.e., had read reviews, with a more narrowed scope of what product/service was needed). Isn’t that interesting? If you have someone who has not researched their options yet within the category, a generic advertisement may be just as or more effective than an advertisement specific to your product/service. To me this suggests, it is important to understand where your customer base is on the learning curve, prior to developing a marketing strategy.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stacy Sanders
Stacy's responsibilities include design and analysis of customer and competitive experience studies. Playing the role of statistical analyst, Stacy works with clients and Walker teams to design research studies to successfully address client needs, while also interpreting the data and analyses to formulate executive-oriented findings and recommendations.


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