TV Remarketing: Changing the Ad Break for Good

Imagine that you are browsing for a brand new car on your laptop, tablet or smartphone. For the last month you’ve been searching all over the internet, getting detailed information about the different brands, styles and features, but you are still not sure about what car to buy.

Fast forward a few days. You’re settled down in front of your favourite show. It gets to the ads and you’re about to skip them when you notice the first is for one of the cars you’d looked at. The second one is too. Out of the block of ads, several are about the cars you’d been researching and the rest of them targeted your other interests and passions.

In my opinion, this way of advertising is not too far away. Thanks to the uptake of digital TV and internet enabled devices, the way we receive adverts is going to change forever.

The benefits of PPC and remarketing

Most marketers already know the benefits of digital marketing and PPC, but if you’re new to this or have been hiding in a cave, it can neatly measure ROI, help to reduce wasted spends and focus on specific targets to a level well beyond more traditional methods. In the case of the focusing on specific targets, remarketing is one of the most powerful methods.

Remarketing is a technique that helps marketers reach users who have already interacted with their website. It uses web cookies and advertising platforms to capture information about interested visitors and then uses this to build remarketing lists around specific categories, such as products or where they left the site. This means if somebody looks at a particular section of your site and signals their intent, you can target them with relevant ads based on recapturing this interest. This happens across the web via display (images or videos) and search (text) ads.

The targeted nature of these ads is bound to appeal to TV advertisers and, with the technology now falling into place, the introduction of TV remarketing is probably a matter of when, not if.

How TV remarketing could work

At this point I can only speculate, but I think the way that this revolutionary advertising technique works will be similar to current web remarketing, using cookies and website information to define a remarketing list before bidding for or buying ad space that targets them. The way to buy an ad place will also likely be the same currently used on YouTube and throughout Paid Search – where bids, maximum costs and targeting (among other things) determine the displayed ads – but a new method has appeared in the last few years.

Programmatic ads are a further step towards automation. Once set up, they either compete for space in ad exchanges via real-time bidding or by reserving guaranteed space. As the information gathered on targeted users grows with every surfing session, it’s able to the show the right ad to the right person at the right time. It’s already being used on some TV channel’s online players and I believe it is (at least initially) the most effective way to run remarketing on TVs. For more on this subject, read our guide to programmatic advertising.

At this point you may be wondering if you could get nice targeted ads on your old black and white set up. Firstly, please visit your nearest Argos ASAP. Secondly, due to the data and bidding process it will undoubtedly require online connectivity, so I’m sure you would need an internet enabled TV or box. Fortunately, this technology is only becoming more common.

In terms of the first phase of TV remarketing, I believe catch up shows which are downloaded on demand would be a natural launching pad before it crosses over into the trickier environment of live broadcasts. However, when this revolutionary technique does reach living rooms around the world, I believe it will improve the ad experience for viewers, brands and agencies.

Making ad breaks better

The way we engage with ads on TV is often more focused than on other channels. The combination of music, images and colour gets our attention (negative or otherwise) because it is presented to us on a screen that we are already focused on. It is a singular message that takes up an entire display, rather than an ad at the side of a web page or a clip that play before a chosen YouTube video has even started. Rather than existing of the periphery, TV ads hold centre stage and making the most of this has always been an exciting challenge for advertisers.

TV ads are already targeted based on channels, the kind of show and their typical audience (think gambling ads during half time of a football match and beauty products in between Made in Chelsea) but they treat viewers as demographics rather than individuals. Remarketing would remedy this by showing specific ads for you, based on your searches, your interests and your browsing. Whether you’ve abandoned a checkout on an e-commerce site or looked into flights to Mallorca, advertisers would have more power than ever before.

Regardless of how targeted ads are, we will always skip or block them, but it will be interesting to see how remarketing affects our behaviour. Most of us skip them because we want to get back to the show, but many will also believe ads just aren’t relevant to them. Would you still skip adverts if they were 100% relevant, individually targeted and included unique promotions? You’d at least think twice.


TV remarketing will bring digital benefits to televised adverts, but it could influence much more than spend and ROI numbers. The way we interact with televisions is changing and to capitalise on this, advertisers need to adapt. Remarketing will give businesses a new, personalised way to push visitors towards their goal.

Depending on when a visitor leaves a site, businesses can gauge their interest and send them a relevant, tailored message to stimulate visits, sign ups and sales. Ads could even incorporate links and make taking the next step even easier for a viewer.

Short of removing fast forward options or forcing people to watch adverts in a way that resembles torture, getting views and tracking impressions may still be tricky, but it’s up to companies to make the most of this potential and create ads that are worth paying attention to.