As I’m writing this blog about personalized advertising, I have my Gmail account open and a Forbes article on personalized ads in another tab. In the middle of reading the article, a popup from Forbes recommended I read an article on Gmail going offline for a while in the near future. That, readers of the Loyola Digital Advertising WordPress, is a terrifying instance of irony that many, if not all of us, can relate to.
Targeted ads are helpful but intrusive. The question I ask you is where do we draw the line? According to the Pew Research Center, only 59% of Americans surveyed have noticed the ads and 73% find them to be negative. On one hand, I’m glad that ad popped up because Gmail is one of my main avenues of communication with certain friends and family, but at the same time I’m thoroughly creeped out. For example, I was recently, I was talking to a friend over Facebook instant messaging about needing to lose my beer gut and in the middle of the conversation weight loss ads popped up in my sidebar.
In researching this topic, I’ve learned that Google takes into account your internet history when you’re doing searches and organizes the results in relation to what’s most relevant to you. It makes sense. Go to Google. Make sure autocomplete is on and type in “movie times.” Suggested searches will more than likely bring up results for movie theaters and times close to Chicago, and if you’ve done that search before, the websites you checked your movie times on will probably be at the top of the page.
We’re being tracked, and if you want to use Google, Facebook, Twitter etc, targeted advertising is something you have to put up with. You have no control over it. Most websites aren’t very transparent about their methods in doing this, and I think that’s a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done. Microsoft allows their users to manage whether or not you get personalized ads in their privacy settings, and I think more websites should take up this policy.
Ideally, I’d like to see this practice done away with. I don’t think that’s viable though, as advertising is largely what allows websites like Google and Facebook to stay in business. Personalized ads are a product of this era of instant gratification, where businesses are geared towards making everything as convenient as possible with as little work as possible. While the internet does make education, communication, commerce among many other things more convenient, I believe it’s important not to get caught up in making everything easier.
Hof, R. (2012, March 9). People Don’t Want Personalized Ads. What Should Marketers Do? Forbes. Retrieved January 24, 2014, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/roberthof/2012/03/09/people-dont-want-personalized-ads-what-should-marketers-do/
Pew Research Center. (2012, January 9). Search Engine Use 2012. Targeted advertising: 59% of internet users have noticed it, but most don’t like it. Retrieved January 24, 2014, from http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Search-Engine-Use-2012/Main-findings/Targeted-advertising.aspx