It’s happened to all of us at one point or another. You’re online doing any number of different things, and then you start seeing ads appear that are related to what you were doing online, possibly what you were searching for on Google. It can seem a little disturbing.
Those are what are known as targeted ads. They use means to find out what you’re interested in to match the ads to you. We asked our writers, “Do you prefer to see targeted ads online?”
Damien doesn’t think the “targeted” ads are really targeted. “You go to one website, and ads of similar products follow you wherever you surf, regardless of whether you are interested or not.” He finds it “creepy” and would prefer to see non-targeted ads.
Alex much prefers more generic ads over the targeted ones. He doesn’t like his activity being tracked and actually takes steps to prevent it from happening. “I’d rather see an ad for a product I’d never purchase than one that’s perfectly tailored to my needs but that required days of carefully monitoring of my Internet traffic.”
He also finds the current use of targeted ads to be “fairly pathetic.” If he purchases a $300 desk chair on Amazon after researching it, he wonders why Amazon can’t think of anything else to try to sell him other than similar chairs. “It seems like the targeting still leaves a lot to be desired in terms of accuracy and functionality.”
Miguel states that he’s never bought anything that was advertised to him… ever. However, occasionally he’ll see an ad for a product similar to something he’s been looking for, and on some occasions it would remind him to buy what he’d been looking for. He also admits emails sometimes work with him, as he bought a new phone specifically because he saw an email offering a big discount on the phone.
Ada does prefer to see targeted ads, yet “in most cases targeted ads either don’t promote anything new to me or promote something I’ve already bought.” She finds that irritating. She also doesn’t like when her searches and Web visits are watched, noting searching for baby items for a friend with a newborn and then getting “bombarded with all sorts of ads for baby and kids stuff for maybe a month or more.”
Fabio prefers them as well, as he might see something he’s actually interested in. He feels “it’s even more annoying when the ads have nothing to do with what interests you.”
Phil starts by saying he doesn’t like any advertising of any kind, then explains that targeted ads are pointless because even if you were in the market for something before, you might be irritated by having it shown to you again. “The only target they hit is annoyance and brand hostility.” He feels random ads are better, but he won’t buy anything from an ad anyway (especially Facebook), as he finds those prices ten times the actual price. He prefers to shop around.
While Simon finds it annoying to see ads that relate to something he’s already bought, just because the algorithms picked up that he was searching for that item. But at the same time he’d rather have the ads be a product he’s interested in. “That way they’re worthy my attention more than just a spread of general stuff.”
I see both sides to this issue. I did buy a pair of dog-paw pajama pants for my daughter that were advertised to me on Facebook. Then again, returning from a cruise a few weeks back, I visited the website for the cruise line to find my next cruise. For the rest of the day I was besieged with Google ads for cruises within the articles I was reading as research for my work. That was… skeevy. I don’t mind one ad popping up on Facebook once, but I don’t like similar ads popping up all day long from Google.
What is your experience with targeted ads? Does it bother you that they follow you all day? Do you appreciate them reminding you of something you may be interested in? Do you prefer to see targeted ads online? Add your thoughts into the comments section below.