AdRoll Launches Book On Retargeting: Q&A With President Adam Berke

Ad retargeting firm AdRoll on Monday announced the launch of a book about retargeting, titled The Retargeting Playbook.

Adam Berke, the company’s president, wrote the book in conjunction with Greg Fulton (senior product director) and Lauren Vaccarello (VP of marketing). 

Berke provided RTM Daily with a brief excerpt of the book and answered a few questions about retargeting, why he felt the need to write a book on the topic, its interplay with real-time bidding (RTB), and more.

RTM Daily: Why write a book on retargeting in the first place? Won't it be completely different two years from now?

Adam Berke: The rapid pace of innovation makes writing about any technical topic challenging. However, we focused on fundamentals and best practices that will apply for the foreseeable future.



RTMD: You wrote an entire book on effective retargeting, so it’s logical to assume that, to some degree, you think many marketers are not doing it right. What have they been missing?

Berke: There are many books on search engine marketing but hardly anything on retargeting. Many marketers think of retargeting as following people around with the products they just looked at on a site. 

However, first-party customer data is a marketer’s most valuable marketing asset, and there are many ways they can use it. Product-specific retargeting is certainly powerful, but so is using static branded creative to re-engage lapsed users, promoting content to increase engagement, and a slew of other ways advertisers can leverage their data to generate incremental conversions and improve retention. This book is meant to open the eyes of marketers to help them realize the various ways they can leverage their data

RTMD: "Right person, right time, right message" is a cliche, but one that has merit. Of those three, which one is most commonly messed up by advertisers?

Berke: We wrote the book because we think there’s an opportunity for advertisers to improve across all three concepts. However, the nice thing about retargeting is that by its nature, it solves for right person and to an extent, right time. 

We’re focusing on people who we know are in market based on their behaviors on an advertiser's site, so while better segmentation is a crucial element of a retargeting campaign, there’s no doubt we’re targeting the “right people.” We can adjust for “right time” algorithmically based on the conversion rates we see among cohorts of people who leave an advertiser’s site. As far as variables an advertiser has direct control over, “right message” is probably the one that advertisers could improve upon the most. 

Too often advertisers either ignore or give up control of their retargeting creative. That’s giving up a fantastic opportunity to reinforce their brand and deliver a more targeted message that drives improved performance.

RTMD: An entire section of the book is about the Facebook Exchange. You are a partner of theirs, but objectively speaking, why put so much focus on just one of the exchanges?

Berke: Facebook Exchange presents the convergence of two of the most interesting trends in digital advertising today: programmatic and native. Due to the unique nature of Facebook’s native ad units, it’s just not as well understood as standard IAB display ad units.

For example, we’ve found that marketers can use retargeting on FBX to promote content in the News Feed to lapsed users. That combination of content marketing and retargeting is a powerful tactic that might not be obvious to advertisers who think of retargeting as just dynamic product ads in standard display inventory.

RTMD: Retargeting vs. RTB. What are some of the biggest differences that are often overlooked?

Berke: They’re really two sides of the same coin. Retargeting, when done well, leverages the power of RTB to bid intelligently on a user level. Using algorithms, a retargeting platform can score the value of each user based on their actions on an advertiser’s site and bid a precise amount for that specific user. As an obvious example, someone who bounces off the homepage is worth less than someone who puts an item in their shopping cart. RTB allows a retargeting platform to take that into account and bid more intelligently, resulting in better ROI.


“When ad exchanges began to dominate the display advertising ecosystem, and cookie-based ad targeting started to mature, marketers were able to shift their focus from “what sites should I target?” to “which web users are most valuable for my brand?” The old playbook was thrown out, and a new breed of online advertising was born. This new approach is called online behavioral advertising (OBA). It relies on the cookie technology that we described earlier, but it is a much more granular and targeted approach.

Marketing is all about reaching the right customers with the right message at the optimal time. OBA gives marketers a new toolset to do so. In order to accomplish this, a marketer needs to understand who his or her potential customers are, how they behave, and, ultimately, what it’s going to take to turn them into customers. This is something that good marketers have always known. But cookie-based tracking gave them the ability to build much richer profiles for their current customers and potential customers. Before you can act, you have to analyze, so the first step in building an effective retargeting strategy is to truly understand your customers.”

“In order to begin crafting a retargeting strategy, you need to understand how customers interact with your site, what they care about, and what it’s going to take to get them over the purchase hump. Once you understand this, you can get the right message in front of the right people at the right time. But without this knowledge, you won’t be able to identify the actions your customers are taking that indicate that they are ready to make a purchase.”

2 comments about "AdRoll Launches Book On Retargeting: Q&A With President Adam Berke".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Skip Brand from bbd (branding big data), March 25, 2014 at 2:01 a.m.


    Great job putting forth a book in your area of expertise ---retargeting.

    Thanks for contributing to the digital media knowledge base.

    I can not wait to review the fundamentals of re-targeting.

  2. Chris Nosky from The Marketing Grid, April 15, 2014 at 9:11 a.m.

    Cookies were invented in 1994 by a member of the Mosaic browser development team that later became part of Netscape. They were originally intended to allow user-side customization of web information. They then became a key technology for successful online advertising.

    Fast forward to today: cookies are no longer effective and challenged by reach, accuracy and privacy. Take a look at some of the recent statistics:
    • A 2011 study by Forrester Research estimated that in 2012, more than 50% of unique users blocked cookies
    • Various ad agencies and networks openly report that the number of unique users
    reachable by cookie-based targeting for national campaigns averages 30% - 35% and is
    dropping rapidly
    • A 2012 study by Google Analytics showed that many of the cookies that were set were
    duplicates. Google projected that the industry duplication rate was approximately four
    cookies for every unique user

    Do Cookies Reach Your Audience?
    Both 1st party cookies and 3rd party cookies are limited in reach. First party cookies are based exclusively on the current customer or subscriber list and limit the marketer to cross-sell and up-sell promotions based on the size of the list.

Next story loading loading..