Do You Prefer to See Targeted Ads Online?

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?”

Our Opinion

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.

Your Opinion

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.

Image credit: 3D illustration by Quince Media

Laura Tucker Laura Tucker

Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews, and op-eds, with more than 10 of those years as an editor as well. She has exclusively used Apple products for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site's sponsored review program.


  1. Over the years I have learned to ignore ads, no matter what medium. I see ads but they do not register.

    Ads targeted at a specific demographic may be successful. However, ads targeted by scraping browser history are post facto advertising and totally miss their target. As you say in the article How many $300 desk chairs do I want or need?

    Ads, targeted or aimless, quite often are malware vectors so I use an ad-blocker. The added benefit is that I do not see the vast majority of ads. Unfortunately, some still sneak through.

  2. These “targeted ads” are new to modern society. Until the internet came along all ads were basically sent out en masse via print, radio, or tv. The senders hoped that their target audience, or person, got the offering. That was hit or miss. Now we internet users are specifically identified and hammered relentlessly. It is to the point that some people hate it and do all they can to avoid it. I think hammering me over and over to buy the same thing I bought before is stupid and a waste of everyone’s time. Some people commented as much already. On the other hand, I like ads for different things that are subtly presented to me, (and I am not talking about pop-ups in the middle of the screen) we must all hate that. If I’m on a “techy-site” for instance, shouldn’t I expect to see techy-stuff? Cool, but it better be something I haven’t heard of, or already tried, to get my attention. One day I’d like to see websites devoted to ads for specific products that I could browse. Hopefully, some resourceful people will figure out how to use the internet to get out attention w/o turning us off like tv and radio has done.

  3. No. I don’t like to see ads. I mean it would be different if they were few-and-far-between. But its to the point where I will NOT browse the Internet without TWO adblockers running at ALL times. Why? Because when I disable them both the amount of ads…and popups that appear is overwhelming, and while this might make someone buy something they see from an advertiser? all it does in MY world is annoy the hell out of me. So, until these advertisers can figure out that to have popups, tiny little videos etc when you’re just trying to check email can be a hindrance I will forever block them. There’s also a new ploy that some websites now have. You go follow link on a story…or you try to browse their main page and you get a pop up stating “We see your using an adblocker….won’t you please disable it in order to view our content?”……Like are you kidding me?…then some of them go on to say things like “..We get it. Ads are annoying, but its how we earn revenue to pay our developers..”……or its their technical support staff……or its their programmers, they’ll replace it everytime with a different profession hoping YOU’RE in one of them and will sympathize. Well all I have to do is see that kind of message ONCE, and that site no longer holds my interest. I don’t need to follow links in order to read content or browse merchandise. And to insult my intelligence with the kinds of popups they put out there just adds fuel to my immense distaste for them and their ads. Listen, I realize that being in the “advertising” field is so cut-throat and aggressive, that most companies have no choice but to resort to this kind of tactic in order to pay the bills. But going overboard with a million ads doesn’t help your case….it just cause what WOULD have been your intended audience to become inoculated and thus, “immune” to your sales pitch. So in a way….adblockers aren’t the problem….YOU are!….Hahaha!!….oh the irony of it all!

    1. I definitely get all that. And I get annoyed by popups as well. But the other side of the coin is that without ads, there would be no content. It goes further than just needing to pay the bills. Without the popups, there would be no money to run the sites, and then there’s be no sites with content. So the goal needs to be to find a happy medium to be as least obtrusive to your readers as possible, while also being able to afford to stay in business.

      1. The goal should be to provide content that user will want to come back, whether of high quality or of high interest. Many of the sites that object to ad blockers and employ anti-ad blockers, provide content of marginal quality and interest. As an example, XXX sites do not agitate against ad blockers, do not employ anti-ad blockers and yet they have any problems providing free content. But they offer content that is of high interest AND of high quality so the users are eager to come back again and again.

        1. And if that’s the type of content you want to see on the Internet, that’s great for you!

          1. LOL!
            Congratulations! You chose to totally miss my point. You have just demonstrated what is wrong with most content providers on the Internet. They are deaf, dumb and blind to the desires of the users/viewers. Instead of making sure users want to make return visits to their sites by providing desirable content (by that I definitely DO NOT mean porn), they force ads on the users. The content providers need to come up with a better business plan.

            The mixture of tech news and tech advice is what makes MTE attractive to me. Were MTE to start providing gossip or social network type garbage , I would be gone in a split second.

    1. Did you not read the other comments? Ads pay the bills for the vast majority of free content websites. There has thus far been no other business model which keeps the content free and available in a timely fashion. I hate ads, and even more those which try to get personal. But without these ads, I couldn’t afford to be online. (Some might think that is a good thing! ;) )

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