The other day, watching a program on human origins and evolution, I learned or the term persistence hunting. It’s a technique we humans devised to hunt and kill fast [meaty] prey. The gist of it is to pursue a target for so long until it too exhausted (e.g., heat shock) to escape any further, making for an easy kill.

There’s an analogous tactic in digital marketing called “retargeting.” Retargeting is dead simple. Potential buyers visit a vendor’s website, get cookied, and then get served ads for the vendor’s offering on other sites. In essence, marketers get to pursue potential customers to the point of exhaustion, until they’re finally ready to buy (get killed)—or so the thinking goes.

However, retargeting is missing a major point—it needs to be contextually relevant. Presently I’m getting pursued by Zvox, Watchismo, Hilton, and Medifast. Everywhere I go on the Web I’m being bombarded by ads for these companies’ products and services. But the ads themselves are not relevant to what I’m actually interested in at the moment. And that’s creepy.

While talking to last week about possibly becoming an advertising client, the idea of being contextually relevant to the audience was a new one to them. While the claim that they reach 98% of the Web may be appealing to some, the idea of my stalking business prospects in their personal lives was repulsive to me.

Rather than retargeting on an opt-out basis, us marketers need to be given the choice of opt-in advertising; being able to choose specific sites where our ads would show, so that they make sense within the editorial context and frame of mind of our “prey.”

I don’t want to exhaust my potential customer with my commercial messaging. I want to befriend them.

At the heart of retargeting seems to be the primary need of the ad distributor to maximize their own profitability in the short term, without regard for the needs of me or my intended audience.

It would be such an easy fix.