Have you been in such a situation when you visited a web site and after this quick 5 minutes check you are haunted by this brand’s ads everywhere you go on the web? Annoying, right? That is actually called targeted advertising.
Targeted advertising is a form of advertising where online advertisers can use sophisticated methods to target the most receptive audiences with certain traits, based on the product or person the advertiser is promoting. These traits can either be demographic which are focused on race, economic status, sex, age, the level of education, income level and employment or they can be psychographically focused which is based on the consumer’s values, personality, attitudes, opinions, lifestyles, and interests.
According to Toubiana et al. (2010), online behavioral advertising (OBA), also called online behavioral ad targeting, has began in the late 1990s. DoubleClick used 3rd party cookies to track users across sites and presented ads based on the user’s browsing patterns. Nowadays OBA is a large and complex industry where entire exchanges trade user information specifically for the purpose of better ad placement. This means that if you visit a certain website, it will follow you on Instagram, Facebook, Youtube and what’s more – on your every device! In fact, there is a real-life example, which makes me feel uncomfortable using my own gadgets: today at 19:30 i was checking out hm.com from my mobile and spend a few seconds more staring at 2 particular items. Now I see them popping up in my Facebook news feed! That is kind of scary. I can’t say that by seeing this ad I feel motivated to buy those items, or it makes me question if I really want those things. It only makes me feel spied by intrusive ads of H&M and decreases my loyalty to this brand.
To make a long story short, targeted advertising raises privacy concerns. Targeted advertising is performed by analyzing consumers’ activities through online services such as cookies and data-mining, both of which can be seen as detrimental to consumers’ privacy. In other words, companies monitor what you do, where you go, who you interact with and what your interests are. They do it privately and securely, and it’s all automated so that no human being actually learns anything about you. And then the online world becomes customized, just for you. The ads are always the things you want to buy. The services are just what you’re looking for. But does it really works the way it was designed?