Retargeting – Amusing or Confusing?

By Chelsea Riffe

You might be confused reading the title of this blog post… retargeting? What is that? In my terms, it’s when you’re on a website and see advertisements that appeal to your interest all over the banner ads. For example, when I Google make-up products and then go on my Facebook, that exact product I searched or a similar one will pop up in my Facebook. Of course, there’s a more formal explanation.

According to AdRoll (2013), “Retargeting works by keeping track of people who visit your site and displaying your retargeting ads to them as they visit other sites online” (para. 1). They way this works is by placing “cookies” on a visitor that goes to your site. The service doing the retargeting finds these visitors and serves ads to them in real time. They know how to gauge your interests based on recent history, frequent visits, and key words that you search.

How It Works


I didn’t view this website this morning or an hour ago, I literally JUST looked at it and I was served the ad. Once you become aware of what retargeting is, you start noticing that everything you see online is pretty much served to you based on your interests.

Is this amusing or confusing to you… or creepy? Why exactly was retargeting even invented in the first place? According to Wasserman (2013), advertisers can “identify people who are in the market for a product” (para. 2). It’s a different method for advertisers to quickly identify who is in their market and how they must change their approach to hit those people. For example, if they notice a ton of millennial girls are Googling NARS make-up products, they might change the images they use in future ads. They might have a more “millennial” looking girl in the ad instead of a middle age woman. 

Why Advertisers Do Retargeting

(Chart from

Retargeting doesn’t just serve you ads of a direct product you recently searched. It uses key words and interests and suggests things that may appeal to you, based on your search history. Here’s an example: yesterday, I was looking up flights all day on many different sights to find the cheapest ones. In the past week, I’ve been looking at some traveling blogs and websites. A “random” ad from Travel Answers just popped up in my Facebook newsfeed today…hmmm….


The ad platform probably recognized the key words “travel” and “flights” and served me this ad. It’s a pretty crazy and advanced time that we’ve come to in the marketing/advertising world. The fact that we view ads based on our interest levels might be considered extremely intellectual by some, and extremely creepy by others. What do you think?



Bring back lost customers with Facebook retargeting – Perfect Audience. (n.d.). What is Retargeting?. Retrieved July 7, 2014, from

How retargeting works. (n.d.). Retargeting and Display Advertising. Retrieved July 7, 2014, from

Wasserman, T. (2013, December 5). Twitter will now show you ads based on your browsing history. Mashable. Retrieved July 7, 2014, from





2 thoughts on “Retargeting – Amusing or Confusing?

  1. I am not sure if it’s amusing or confusing. To me it feels more like creepy, border-lining alarming. I feel like no matter what I do online, “someone” is watching me — and taking detailed “notes” how to sell me more and more stuff. And is there really a way for me to prevent these “someones” ? I don’t know….
    And, I couldn’t stop myself, lol:


  2. I agree with Nadia this is creepy. I have been noticing on my gmail account how many fashion sites will send me ads based on the emails I receive or other for job applications. I feel like there is something planted in my computer, literally a cookie, following me everywhere I look on the Internet. Rarely do I like an ad that is posted and never have I clicked on one. Sometime I feel like this is a terrible tactic, but I’m probably the minority not clicking on ads filtered by cookies following me.


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