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2018 William F. O'Dell Award

Rajdeep Grewal

Anja Lambrecht and Catherine Tucker have been selected as the recipients of the annual William F. O’Dell award for their article “When Does Retargeting Work? Information Specificity in Online Advertising” which appeared in the October 2013 (Volume 50, Issue 5) issue of the Journal of Marketing Research. The award honors the JMR article published five years earlier that has made the most significant, long-term contribution to marketing theory, methodology, and/or practice. The O’Dell Award committee this year included Rebecca Hamilton (Georgetown University), Tulin Erdem (New York University) and Pradeep Chintagunta (University of Chicago).

The committee provided the following statement about their choice of Lambrecht and Tucker’s paper for the O’Dell Award:

“Dynamic retargeting” refers to the practice of showing consumers advertisements featuring pictures of products they recently browsed online. When Lambrecht and Tucker published their article “When Does Retargeting Work? Information Specificity in Online Advertising” in October 2013, retargeting firms claimed that featuring products consumers had recently browsed dramatically increased purchases. Yet, consumer reactions to dynamic retargeting were often negative. Until this point, rigorous testing had not been done to distinguish the effectiveness of dynamic retargeting vs. more generic retargeting (showing products that are similar to, but not the same as, products previously browsed) or identify points in the consumer’s decision process when dynamic retargeting would be more vs. less effective.

In their paper, Lambrecht and Tucker analyze data from a field experiment conducted by a travel website in cooperation with a major ad network and a follow-up lab experiment. Data from the field experiment suggest that, in general, dynamic retargeting ads are less effective than more generic retargeting, but this effect is moderated by whether the consumer has visited a review website. Visiting a review website is used as a proxy for having more refined product preferences. The follow-up lab experiment provides additional evidence that consumers react more favorably to dynamic retargeting ads when they have more refined (vs. broad) product preferences. Together, this empirical evidence suggests that the effectiveness of dynamic retargeting differs across stages of the consumer’s decision making process.  

These results caused agencies like Havas Media, which provided data to the authors for this paper, to question their recommendations to clients. The paper also kicked off a series of academic papers examining retargeting. The O’Dell Award is presented annually at the Summer AMA Conference, where it will be featured in a conference session exploring the evolution of academic research on retargeting.


The other finalists for the O’Dell award were:

Rajdeep Grewal is Townsend Family Distinguished Professor of Marketing, Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.