ELI5: Define Retargeting

Retargeting - Explain Like I’m 5

“Explain like I’m five” or ELI5, is an idea that started on Twitter (#ELI5) and spawned the “Explain Like I’m Five” subreddit. ELI5 takes a complex idea or concept and goes through the mental exercise of simplifying it in a way that a young child can understand.

In this BENlabs take on ELI5, we’ll hit on some common — and not so common — terms relating to marketing, influence, and AI and do our best to distill them into simple terms without losing too much of the nuance.

Define Retargeting in ELI5

Imagine you go to a candy store and see a bunch of candies on the shelves. You pick up a few candies and think about buying them but in the end, you don’t buy anything. You leave the store. The candy store owner knows you were looking at the candies and you were obviously thinking about buying some… but you didn’t. 

Instead of just hoping you’ll come back later when you want to buy some candy, retargeting is like if the candy store owner followed you outside and said, “Hey, don’t forget about our candies! These are some pretty darned tasty candies. Are you sure you don’t want to buy some?” 

Then, later, maybe when you’re playing a game, the store owner calls you to say, “Hey! Remember me? I see you’re playing a game… you know what’d go great with that game? CANDY!” They might even offer you a discount on the candy you were looking at or suggest some other candies you might like. 

You go get the mail. There’s a flyer for the candy store showing pictures of the candy you were looking at before. You go to sleep. Guess who you see? That’s right. THE CANDY MAN! 

Sweet dreams, kids.

Retargeting is this same idea but less weird and online. When you visit a website and look at candy (or anything at all) but don’t buy any, the website starts following you around online. It shows you ads for candy when you watch your favorite YouTuber’s content. It shows you ads for candy on websites you visit. If you shared your email address, it sends you emails about candy. If you shared your phone number, it might send you text messages about candy.

The idea is that if the website reminds you about candy enough times in enough different places, something will click in your brain and you’ll say, “You know what? I really DO want some candy. Here’s my parent’s credit card… and yes, I totally got their permission to buy all the candy I want. Thanks for checking.”

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