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ADOTAS – You’ve seen them on the Internet – those pesky ads that seem to follow you across websites for that Moncler down vest you’ve been coveting, or that red coffee pot you viewed once on an online retail site. It’s these ads that give the retargeting industry a bad reputation, but for marketers they provide a valuable way to get people back onto their websites to make a purchase.

At the OMMA RTB conference this week in Seattle, John Mracek, CEO of Netseer, stated, “We are not here to fix retargeting; we are here to talk about how we move beyond it to identify prospects.”

The retargeting industry was created to provide a way to cookie users who visit a particular website and view a particular product, then serve them relevant ads across the web in order to push these potential customers further and further down the funnel to conversion.

But why are they so annoying and what can marketers do to improve campaign performance?

“In general we think that retargeting is overspent because with the last touch attribution model it appears to be working and people are spending money on it,” said Eshwar Belani, VP of business development at Rocket Fuel. “Focus more on incrementality, and what are the incremental results of the campaign. Today we are focused more on correlation driven models, but we need to move more to a causation-based model.”

While this sounds great in theory, causation may be difficult to pinpoint since the path to conversion is non-linear and cumulative. For example, once someone shows intent to purchase by visiting a store website once, they may wait days or even weeks before thinking about the product again. During that time, retargeting is working in full-force, serving ads to get people thinking about it.

“Retargeting lays the groundwork for further data collection to identify intent beyond a customer’s website,” said Will Doherty, director of business development at Netmining. “Everything online is generating data and we can match that to third-party datasets. Just by having a large robust profile story we can identity folks that show similar attributes of converters desirable to that market.”

Maria Domoslawska, VP of global strategy and research at Research Now added, “We talk a lot about mechanics but advertising is based on the creative idea. We try to fill the gaps between the emotional value for consumers by including surveys into algorithms. There is tremendous opportunity to marry big data files with cool creatives – then advertising will work.”

Until weighted attribution models are introduced and become mainstream technologies, we only consider the last click as the one that drove the sale, even though it was the collection of each that drove the consumer to make a purchase.

“At the end of the day we are advertising to a person and their needs. If everyone becomes just a cookie or a number we lose some of the personal connection,” Doherty said.