Remember the days when you could simply scroll through social media, visit a website or check your email inbox without being influenced by outside sources? The days when your life was unperturbed by targeted ads, constantly trying to sell you something? It feels like a long time ago, doesn’t it?
I’m not sure if we’ve become desensitized due to a constant surplus of information, or if we’ve simply developed an ad-immunity. Targeted ads are neither surprising nor unexpected in today’s Information Age. Somehow, though, the appearance of ads across social media feels profoundly more personal.
While the days of expecting that our browsing history and online profiles are private have surely slipped away, not so subtle reminders of an item we forgot to buy on Amazon or an article we might like to read somehow feel invasive. If our online behavior and CTR are serving as catalysts for these targeted advertisements, why does it feel so unsettling?
Let me give you an example. A few months ago, I saw a fabulous pair of open-toed, ox blood booties by TOMS. I mulled over the purchase for months, after all, shoes are serious business. Finally, I took a chance and purchased the shoes online. Ever since then, however, I continue to see the exact shoe I purchased everywhere, whether it be on Facebook, Amazon, or a random website. While these targeted ads can be helpful at times and inspire an additional purchase, in this case, the ad became a nuisance. I’ll give TOMS the benefit of the doubt, but remind me to purchase them at the store in the future.
While I’m sure that many of you have experienced something similar, the ultimate question is, does targeted advertising bring more harm than good? Are the ads even effective, or do they push prospective consumers away? Have you ever subscribed to a service or purchased a product as a result of a targeted ad? Are there certain types of ads that you find to be more invasive than others? Do certain social platforms influence your opinion of targeted ads? For example, do you enjoy the targeted ads on Instagram, but find them irritating on Facebook? Do you think targeted ads are here to stay? Are there any provisions we can take as consumers to minimize targeted ads and enhance the online experience? How do they impact the brand as a whole?
If life is like a targeted ad, I want to know what I’m gonna get.
Ben Elhadj-Ben Brahim, N., Lahmandi-Ayed, R., & Laussel, D. (2011). Is targeted advertising always beneficial? International Journal of Industrial Organization, 29(6), 678-689.
Li, Y., Lin, L., & Chiu, S. (2014). Enhancing targeted advertising with social context endorsement. International Journal of Electronic Commerce, 19(1), 99-128.
Targeted advertising deemed ‘creepy’. (2015). Long Island Business News.