Online advertising helped me find, purchase and flip flop around in a new pair of sandals for my husband. Online behavioral ads use third-party tracking in the form of cookies. This collects and analyzes the user’s behavior online. When targeted correctly, online ads are helpful to the consumer and welcomed, rather than blocked due to that push marketing vibe.

As a marketer, I’m fully aware of the time, cost and manpower it takes to do it right. Wearing my consumer hat (or sandals in this summery situation), helped me experience that perfect placement, timing, serving and usability to get to my purchase. Here’s what went down and what you can learn from it.

I searched on Amazon, Zappos and Payless for a new pair of sandals for my husband.

targeting online ad effectiveness

After a few minutes of searching, Amazon updated it’s right nav with the most popular sandals.

online ad targeting

Payless served up relevant shoes in their left nav and touted their BOGO sale (buy one get one).

online ad targeting

Later that day, I resumed my regular surfing, and these ads appeared:

online advertising zappos

ebay online ad targeting

The more targeted the ad, the better. I found myself clicking through to many of these sites right from the ads. And while I didn’t buy the shoes online, I went into Payless and got a pair.

Online ad effectiveness
Check out the husband’s kicks.

As a marketer, this experience taught me a few things about effective behavioral targeting, including:

  • Partner with a big ad server like AdChoices to spread your ad across many sites.
  • Make the ads targeted and specific to exactly what the user is looking for (even venturing off sandals or men’s shoes felt like waste).
  • Target right away. Don’t let your audience forget about you.
  • Keep at it. Continue the targeting for days or weeks, if needed. Some purchasing decisions take a while to make.
  • Know when to turn it off. If a purchase is made through your site, don’t target them again (especially with an ad promoting what they just purchased). This crosses the line from helpful to annoying.
  • Be aware that this type of advertising can extend into breech of privacy. In other words, do it right or get burned. This MarketingSherpa post has more details.

Have you experienced online ad targeting and was it helpful or hurtful? Share your experiences here.


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