Sam Barnett is the CEO and co-founder of Struq.


It is possible for almost anyone to undertake some basic retargeting and get positive results. However, some methods are easier than others. The ‘easy’ method often results in damage to brand image as users feel hounded by seeing ads too often and for products that they have already purchased.

This has led to a lot of advertisers going to external providers for their retargeting. There are three key tools that your retargeting provider should have so that you can enjoy the benefits of retargeting without sacrificing brand image or performance.

1. Frequency capping limits the number of ads shown

To stop users feeling swamped, it is important to limit the number of ads shown to a user in a given time frame, such as two in the first half hour, one in the next hour after that and so on. This will halt the ‘spam effect’ that repetitive advertising can have.

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Frequency capping can do just that. Through constant testing, a retargeter can ascertain the optimum frequency that ads should be shown to a user. This will translate into the best possible performance without sacrificing brand integrity.

Typically, when retargeting has a negative effect on brands, it is because vendors chase clicks instead of post click performance. A retargeter that chases clicks will use low cost, inefficient inventory to show more ads more often, creating a larger ad frequency and bombarding the user – normally on sites that you may not want linked with your brand.

2. Publisher transparency can save your brand image

To ensure that this low cost inventory is not harming your brand image, transparency from your retargeter is vital. You should be able to see where your ads are being served and with publisher blacklists, URL categorization and keyword blacklists you can keep control of any high risk categories or brand clashes.

Trust in a brand is paramount for driving sales and it is important that you don’t lose your user’s trust by putting too much in your providers. While transparency is important for maintaining user trust, a deep understanding of your user’s purchase funnel is necessary to build that trust.

3. Cross device stops pointless ads

Seventy percent of users will start a purchase on one device and finish on another. For example, I might browse for a product on my smartphone, then move to my PC to buy it.

The problem starts when the retargeter cannot see that I’ve moved to my PC. This is why any retargeting campaign must involve cross device tracking.

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If the provider can’t see me move between devices, when I move back to my smartphone, I will get shown ads for the product I just bought on my PC. I not only feel stalked because the ad is for exactly what I’ve bought, but I am also irritated by the invasive ad, especially if the purchase was a gift.

The rise of the multi-device user has forced retargeters to employ cross device tracking. This means that the browsing history from one of a user’s devices can be used to influence ads shown on another.

With cross device tracking, relevant ads are always shown on every device, limiting the amount of unnecessary spend on ads for things people have already bought.

It is also important to employ this technology if you want your frequency capping to be effective. Obviously frequency capping rules are no good if every device is seen as a separate user. About 44 percent of people will use two devices simultaneously every day, nothing is more likely to make someone feel hunted than getting served too many ads on two devices at the same time.

These tools ensure that a retargeting campaign provides strong performance while protecting brand image. Without them in use vendors are not only damaging how people perceive the industry but also the brands they work for. If you want to run retargeting, do it right and make it worthwhile!

Read next: Why last click attributions breed bad decisions in a multi-device world