Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 4 seconds

Many marketers view retargeting as a powerful strategy for converting prospects into clients, but some marketers are growing skeptical of the practice. One firm has even launched technology for replacing retargeting ads with images of kittens.

Retargeting typically involves placing a “pixel” or “cookie” within a website that tracks the activities of visitors across the internet. In one common strategy, visitors who abandon a shopping cart are followed as they visit other websites. Advertisements for items in previously viewed, but not purchased, are then displayed. The advertisements may offer the products at a discount to entice the viewer to make a purchase.

The technology is available for a variety of platforms, including Google Adwords and Facebook Ads. Other forms of retargeting involve using lists, such as contact information, to provide ongoing incentives to individuals to make purchases.

Digital advertising technology firm Criteo, not surprisingly, is an advocate of retargeting. In sponsored content, the firm claims that 96% of web visitors won’t purchase anything on their first visits, so providing retargeting ads can help boost sales.  

CMS Wire, meanwhile, reports that individuals that view retargeting advertisements are 70% more like to make purchases than other individuals. On one hand, the higher success rate isn’t surprising because retargeting, when done correctly, presents advertisements that are highly tailored to individuals interests, as determined by web surfing activities.

Yet, numerous challenges, including attribution as well as the more practical aspects of determining when ads should be displayed, exist for marketers.

Software advertising company Nanigans recently surveyed 100 retail marketers who collectively spent $16.7 million on advertising last year, reports Click Z.

The firm asked the marketers if they believe some of their sales attributed to retargeting would have occurred without retargeting. Eighty-three percent said yes, but 75% of marketers said they had no data to back up their answers. 

Marketers are afraid to test the impact of retargeting. To conduct a test, they would likely have to stop using the technology and then see if sales decline, which isn’t a solid business practice, maintains Adam Helfgott, CEO of MAD Network, an ad-tech ecosystem. He says that retargeting is a form of “spray-and-pray” marketing.

Deciding the frequency and the content to be displayed is another challenge. Some marketers make the mistake of displaying ads for items that viewers may have just purchased, which is a wasteful use of advertising budgets, reports SearchEngine Journal.

Bad retargeting, furthermore, can damage brands, according to Marketing Land. In one survey, 77% of respondents say they receive too many retargeting advertisements. The publication reports that billions of dollars are wasted annually on retargeting that is isn’t effective. may be addressing that problem with the launch of its own retargeting service. Rather than just pitching ads based on individuals’ recent web activities, the online retailer is seeking to use its massive database to provide more targeted advertisements. MarketingLand also maintains that working with identity programs, such as loyalty programs, can be more effective.

Among critics of retargeting is Pressboard, a native advertising company. The firm is proposing a unique alternative to retargeting—images of cats, reports ADWEEK.

Web surfers who are tired of retargeting advertisements can go to and click on a button that will replace the ads with pictures of cats, says Jerrid Grimm, founder and CEO of Pressboard. Grimm adds that Pressboard technology can help brands have their stories displayed on major publications in just seconds.

The firm’s goal is to help brands market with native content rather than pop-up retargeting advertisements. Grimm reasons that once there are no more pop-up ads, viewers will need to fill the space once taken by the content with images of cats.

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