Personalized Advertising: Creepy or Considerate?

Advertisements can be annoying. Pure and simple. But every so often, I see one that grabs my attention and makes me curious enough to see what it’s all about. I use AdBlock on my Google Chrome browser to avoid seeing banner ads spamming my screen because they’re often about things I have no interest in whatsoever.

Personalized ads are kind of a grey area for people. They don’t like being sold things to begin with but if it’s going to happen anyway then it may as well be things they might actually want to buy. Some people have even gone so far as to call this big data trend “creepy”.

In a getlastic article they said, “Dynamically retargeted ads aren’t so subtle, and according to research by Adobe, 74% of Americans agree with the statement “it’s creepy when companies target advertisements to consumers based on their behavior.”


There are cases of

  • Women being sent advertisements for pregnancy products before they’ve even let anyone know they are expecting
  • Advertisements in banners relating to information you emailed a friend
  • Your location being used nonchalantly to sell you things
  • Your likes and activity on Facebook being sold to third-party advertisers
  • Keywords you tweet or twitterers you follow used to craft ads to suit your interests

Despite all these occurrences, the question remains: are personalized ads bad?

The term for this behavioural targeting based upon previous web browsing history is called “Remarketing”

An article on called, Digital Ads: How Facebook, Google, And Twitter Target Us says, “In Google, remarketing is used to serve ads to people as they navigate to other sites within the Google Display Network. In Facebook, it’s used to serve ads in the right-hand column as well as in desktop and mobile news feeds. This December, Twitter announced the global availability of its retargeting feature, “tailored audiences,” enabling browser-related information (a cookie ID) to be matched with a Twitter account so that it can push tailored, promoted items into users’ Twitter feeds.”

Sure I probably don’t want sponsored tweets or posts in my feeds at all but if they are going to crop up I’d rather have them be about something I’m interested in. However, there is some debate as to how effective personalized ads even are.


A news release from the American Marketing Association in 2013  states, “Ads tailored to individual’s are often ineffective, according to a recent study by Anja Lambrecht, Assistant Professor of Marketing at London Business School and Catherine Tucker, Associate Professor of Marketing at MIT Sloan School of Management.”

Is there a lack of privacy online? Absolutely.

Is it creepy and weird? I guess that is up to you to decide.

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