The Future of Retargeting, Remarketing and Remessaging

Before we step into the future, I need to give you a little history to explain why there are three different names for the same concept. Retargeting was the original term for serving ads based on a searcher’s previous search history and it goes back about ten years.

Retargeting ad networks use terms like “cookie” and “pixel” for the snippet of code that allows them to serve ads to anyone who has previously visited a website, opened an email or been exposed to other opportunities where code can be inserted onto a landing page. Google uses the word remarketing for AdWords’ ability to serve ads through the Google Display Network to anyone who lands on a page that has an audience tag. Bing calls this same concept remessaging.

Pop vs Soda Controversy

Consider the pop vs. soda graph. I live in Texas and have used the word “coke” my entire life even though the word coke really seems to represents one brand, Coca Cola. Historically, as the soda industry and technology changed and as new brands came into the market, new names and jargon inevitably popped up.  This is essentially what we are seeing now with Google trying to make “remarketing” the coke of the retargeting industry. Bing is using the term remessaging to add their own unique flavor as well.

The Future Of Google Remarketing

As search retargeting technology continues to improve, it is only a matter of time before Google launches their version of Search Remarketing.  It only makes sense for Google to leverage the keyword data from their search engine and partners to show ads on their own display network.

Another element of search retargeting is the data coming from the search engines on sites already participating in AdSense. Once again, Google is positioned to take advantage of this data from Google’s Custom Search or Site Search products that are already available to anyone with a website.

With YouTube and AdMob, Google is positioned well in the video and mobile markets to expand and improve retargeting options in those areas. Because of the huge growth in both video and mobile advertising, it is highly likely that Google will be looking closer at video and mobile in the near future to launch new retargeting products and options.

Google is also likely to leverage their existing AdSense database and display network to develop or design new concepts around search retargeting and to improve the existing technology.

Bing Remessaging

Bing currently offers Search Remessaging to advertisers but it is not yet available through their AdCenter platform. When a keyword search is done using Bing, the searcher is then tagged and shown retargeting ads on the Microsoft Media Network and on their partner sites.

Microsoft has an interesting network of products.  Advertising is already integrated into a number of those products including Xbox games. Having access to large databases of users across a variety of interests could offer opportunities to build the Bing Remessaging audience in the near future.

Instant Retargeting

Some search retargeting companies such as have already started offering what they call instant retargeting. It starts when a searcher types in a keyword, is served search results and then clicks on a publisher who is already in the ad network. That searcher could be instantly served a retargeting ad based on their search query.

Can you imagine the possibilities for this across some industries? Restaurants, airline tickets and other industries where the “now” factor is strong could set up instant campaigns where the ad only shows for the next 24 hours. Someone with a broken tooth or who is looking for  24-hour urgent care could be shown relevant, geo-targeted advertising instantaneously.

Social Retargeting

RadiumOne, a social retargeting company, recently raised 50M showing how big the interest is in combining retargeting with social marketing. That’s no surprise when you see Pinterest, Fancy, Gogobot and other fast growing sites entering the social landscape while major companies try their best to develop their own approach to turning those searchers into customers. Keep an eye out for more options for social retargeting along with more case studies and success stories. Social retargeting is and will continue to evolve at a very fast pace.

Intent Retargeting

LocalResponse recently announced Intent Retargeting, a concept where marketers can respond in real time to customer intent. If someone posts “I’m hungry” on Twitter, it could result in a banner ad from Pizza Hut. Adchemy uses their technology to figure out why someone abandoned your shopping cart and what they were really looking for so you can retarget them with relevant ads.

With more intent marketing companies like Yieldbot moving into this space, expect Intent Retargeting to be a new buzzword. As much as I like this concept as an advertiser, it still sounds like the plot to a science fiction movie where a computer program tries to not only figure out what you are thinking but then turns around and gives it to you a few minutes later. Hmmm.

New Kids On The Retargeting Block

With the growing popularity of retargeting, new options and new retargeting companies are popping up almost every month now. The first round of retargeting companies and services focused on very broad based ad distribution.  With the original broad retargeting strategies, if I visited the Ferrari website, their retargeting ads could be show on sites that have nothing to do with luxury cars, such as news sites or weather pages.

Companies like SalesBump want to change retargeting so that ads are only shown on relevant pages. With the more relevant strategy, if I visited the Academy sporting goods store’s site, their retargeting ads would only show when I visited sites relevant to sports.

Distant Future Of Retargeting

I realize that many people don’t dream about the future of display advertising nor do they care about the impact and influence advertising has or will have on our society. But I do.

I don’t have a crystal ball to truly predict where the online advertising industry is headed but I can lay all the pieces of the industry puzzle on the table to see a pretty clear picture of what it might look like, especially for retargeting.

Please share your thoughts on where you think the concept of retargeting is headed.

Stock image from, used under license.


Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Display Advertising | Display Advertising Column


About The Author: is the VP of Media at Advice Interactive Group where she develops plans that strive to achieve the most effective spend plans possible to meet client's digital marketing and targeting goals.

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  • Caroline Watts

    Hi Shelley,

    In this space, change happens so quickly that the future of retargeting as predicted today could be here tomorrow.

    The focus on Google and Bing is logical, given their weight in the display marketplace, but I would argue that both are well behind the curve when it comes to retargeting technology.  (Full disclosure – I work for ReTargeter, an online advertising platform specializing in retargeting.)

    For example, Google may be looking into search remarketing, but search retargeting is not a thing of the future.  It’s already here.  A number of companies are offering this product, including, as mentioned above, and

    Intent retargeting is an interesting concept, and here at ReTargeter we’re interested to see where this kind of targeting will be headed.  All retargeting is based on perceived user intent, demonstrated by some form of engagement.  It’s just a question of how the user demonstrates intent and how we are able to serve them ads in the right places and at the right time.


  • Arnaud Fischer Glam

    Shelley, excellent post. Re-targeting is all good, all around. Users get more relevant ads. Publishers sell inventory at a higher CPM. Advertisers more effectively target. Less waste all around. I am also impressed with ‘s real time bidding 
    re-targeted serving … -arnaud

  • Jules Polonetsky

    Google and Bing are avoiding the term re-targeting because (outside the marketing bubble) the idea of “targeting” people isnt very pleasing to the ear…(or media/policymakers/advocates).

  • Shelley Ellis

    I agree – I don’t believe search retargeting is a future concept…and you are also right that Bing and Google are behind the curve. Retargeter has a great reputation in the industry and I’m looking forward to watching your company evolve.

  • Shelley Ellis

    That’s a good point. I was looking up the dictionary definition of remarketing tonight and I can see now why Google used it in spite of the fact that there is really a whole other industry using that term.

  • Do Lally

    Hi Shelley – how do you think retargeting will be effected by the impending EU Cookie law legislation requiring an “opt in” for any cookie to run on someone’s computer?

  • Shelley Ellis

    There are companies like that focus specifically on this and they are coming up with some very creative ways to get around it. 

  • hari waluyo

    Ellys hey …. I just wish I could surf, blogging, etc. with a safe and clean …. Thanks for the info

  • Luis Galarza

    Excellent article… I think ad retargeting is one of the best innovative tools available for online marketers. But, I really want to hear a little about the opinion from the consumer or web user point of view. I know that anyone who understand and see the same ad next to search results or web properties will not any problem about it, the problem comes from non-marketers web users that might think of this strategy as a privacy thread to their Internet security! Do you have any insights or research results about this?

  • Shelley Ellis

    I wish more companies did two things: had a shorter duration for their initial remarketing campaigns and used frequency settings. That would help keep non-marketers from feeling like they were being stalked. And there are rules in place across certain industries to keep remarketers from tagging you for certain health conditions and other things that might make you uncomfortable. From feeling like “how do they KNOW that about me!”

  • Anonymous

    Excellent state of the nation, as it were. I’m one of those people who does dream about the future of display and retargeting. I would reinforce two points made here. One: it’s about data. All these companies will have to provide the customer data that goes along with the interactions with display or search keywords. It’s not as easy as it sounds. In fact, experience, partnerships and infrastructure will be the most important things that advance retargeting as a strategy. Second: We need to go beyond search. The Google developments are certainly worth the attention you’ve given them. The future of retargeting depends at least in part on the data generated by publishers, content owners, retailers and brands. Google, Bing and Yahoo! aside, there’s a wide world of data to be accessed and a universe of customer intention to be explored.  

  • Shelley Ellis
  • DigitalMarketing ROI

    Shelly, this is what I see both as a consumer of products/services as well as a Marketing professional: being retargeted ads about company XYZ. While it does jog my memory about the brand – nothing compelling to get me back in their site when I am shopping around for alternatives. 

    So with many retargeting options from GDN, Adroll & Simplifi are exciting .. it really comes down to how retargeting is used … with customized messaging to suit the interest & intent to purchase of the prospect. This is where advertisers & marketeers will really get the benefits, irrespective of the retargeting provider used..


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