Sometimes the most interesting innovations come from the simplest ideas.

Case in point:  one of the hottest online advertising trends today is something called “ad retargeting.”  Erick Schonfeld of TechCrunch explains retargeting this way:

“The idea is simple. When you visit a retailer’s or other advertiser’s website, it drops a cookie on your browser and the next time it sees you pop up on another site it loads an ad from that retailer. You’ve already expressed interest in that advertiser by visiting their site, so they retarget you whenever they can. It may sound a bit stalkerish, but trust me, everyone is doing it.”

There are some variations of this definition, but for our purposes today it’s close enough.

Even Google is now offering retargeting of its Google AdWords, calling it “remarketing” and giving this example on its official Inside AdWords blog:

“Here’s an example of how it works. Let’s say you’re a basketball team with tickets that you want to sell. You can put a piece of code on the tickets page of your website, which will let you later show relevant ticket ads (such as last minute discounts) to everyone who has visited that page, as they subsequently browse sites in the Google Content Network. In addition to your own site, you can also remarket to users who visited your YouTube brand channel or clicked your YouTube homepage ad.”

I happen to be a fan of retargeting ads.  Last year I started a campaign through one such retargeting service,, to build the audience for a social media site I own, after interviewing the founder of ReTargeter, Arjun Dev Arora, and becoming intrigued with the idea.

My purpose was to build loyal repeat visitors to that site – visitors who don’t just visit once, but who are reminded of the site in their travels across the Web and prompted to come back and visit and participate in the site repeatedly.  I wanted the site to be top of mind for those visitors.  In essence you could say it is a branding campaign… to build awareness and brand recognition.

Retargeting turns out to be a cost effective branding campaign for small businesses.  You target a qualified audience (those who’ve already shown some interest in your product or website).  You pay only for ad impressions that will be seen by those you are targeting.

There’s a lesson in these retargeting ads that goes well beyond advertising, for every small business.  That lesson is about innovation.

Look for innovation in the simplest ways and smallest things.  At its core, retargeting is nothing more than serving up banner ads of a certain type to a certain audience – with the main difference being that the ads are served AFTER the user leaves a website.  That one twist – serving up ads AFTER the visitor leaves the site – can make all the difference in the success of a campaign.

In my case, it made my advertising much more effective (and a better use of my advertising budget) than a traditional banner ad campaign.  People who see the ads have already been to the site, and since my goal is loyal repeat visitors,  there’s a higher likelihood that they will return, than if those same impressions were served to those who had never visited the site.

I bring up the topic of retargeting ads as a metaphor for approaching innovation in your business.  Think of all the possibilities.  Sometimes if you just let yourself think freely, and not be hemmed in with traditional assumptions, new opportunities can open up.  Innovation can be as simple as a “twist” on an old idea.

Source: Open Forum