Study: Paid social emerges as mobile retargeting hack

Retargeting via mobile devices is an industry-wide challenge, but a new study shows digital media buyers are experimenting with paid social exchanges to fill the gap left by cookies. About 41 percent of both brands and agencies said they believe that social exchanges are “key” to retargeting on mobile devices, as these exchanges reach users regardless of whether they are at a desktop or on the go.

“I think it’s the only way to go at this point,” said Erich Marx, Nissan’s director of interactive and social media marketing. “There’s really no other option.”

The study, commissioned by Chango and fielded by Digiday, asked 400 media buyers, agency executives and brand executives how they are using retargeting and what, if any, effects mobile and social marketing have on retargeting. Social exchanges emerged as a promising tactic for retargeting via mobile.

“It’s becoming more and more important because there are starting to be more ways to do paid social than there ever were before,” said Barry Lowenthal, president of The Media Kitchen. “And now it’s becoming more of a consideration. I mean, just look at Facebook’s mobile numbers for evidence.”

Even among those who were not sure if social is a silver bullet, many believed they would play a key role moving forward. Retargeting on mobile is still a risky endeavor, as the technology lacks a proven way to identify and target users. Social targeting, respondents said, could be a way around that.

In general, advertisers and their agencies are spending more money on paid social. About 38 percent of buyers are employing Twitter’s tailored audiences and 67 percent are using Facebook’s FBX to reach consumers.

Using social exchanges as a work-around on mobile shows how fervently brand and agencies believe in retargeting as a tactic overall. Respondents to the April study said about 56 percent of brands and agencies rely on retargeting to acquire new customers, 42 percent use it build brand awareness and 42 percent to increase direct revenue.

The study also found:

  • Seventeen percent believe mobile targeting is “standard practice.” Forty-five percent of respondents believe it will soon mature into a “standard practice.” Thirty-four percent see the tactic as experimental.
  • Eleven percent of brands and 7 percent of agencies use retargeting to acquire their competitors’ customers.
  • Sixty-three percent of respondents take retargeting budgets from display advertising budgets; 49 percent of brands and 68 percent agencies are moving dollars from display into retargeting.
  • Ten percent of agencies and 9 percent of brands give retargeting its own budget.
  • Thirty-three percent of brands and 36 percent of agencies give paid social its own budget.

Download the full report for a more comprehensive look at the State of Retargeting and social media’s role in retargeting on mobile.


  • Chango is a programmatic advertising company, purpose-built for the marketer. The company uses exclusive intent data and technology to create relevant, timely advertising campaigns and produce rich customer insights. The company’s unique live-profile technology makes intent data available faster than anyone else to help clients efficiently build brand awareness, acquire new customers and retarget site visitors. Chango works with more than 60 of Fortune 500 marketers and companies such as eBay, Sears, Clorox, Sprint and Toyota. Chango was recently acquired by Rubicon Project, a global technology company leading the automation of advertising. The acquisition allows Rubicon Project to expand its premium advertising marketplace to include intent marketing capabilities at scale.
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