The word “re-targeting” in combination with the concept of digital advertising is not a new pairing for us as consumers. The ever-increasing usage of the world wide web has brought on a fleet of different strategies by advertisers who are all trying desperately to grasp our short-lived attention. Advertising, and specifically, relevant advertising, is not my issue here. However, as a consumer, my apprehensions lie with the invasive, not to mention, pretty creepy ways in which advertisers are using my data to target me in the most vulnerable ways.
It is not difficult to conjure up the thought of a time where one has perused a website, only to find an advertisement for that site waiting for them on the succeeding websites that they visit. This is called re-targeted advertising, and it is usually triggered when a consumer visits a site with no conversion. The advertisement assumes, pretty incorrectly might I add, that you are likely to buy a product just because you have viewed it and that you could subsequently be inclined to purchase this product if you are prompted to do so on other sites.
This is not relevant advertising, this is ad-stalking, and it’s not a smart strategy for marketing. Don’t get me wrong, I agree that relevant advertising is as important as it is effective. It’s no secret that people are more inclined to purchase products that appeal to their interests. However, when advertisements abrasively push the products that I once had in my basket on every site I visit, it crosses the line into the realm of digital stalking. I’m not alone in my concerns; the average consumer is highly aware of ads being re-targeted towards them, with 70% of Australians finding digital advertisements now to be “creepy.”
Advertising needs to involve a combination of both prediction, and discovery. I don’t want to see advertisements for products that I am already aware of, I want to see products that I might actually like and even want to purchase. Smart advertising is positioning the consumer to believe that they have somehow stumbled on this product themselves, believing that the buying power is in their hands. If you present a consumer with advertisements that are similar to products that they have shown previous interest in, their data is being used in a non-invasive way that betters their online experience. In contrast, showing a consumer the exact same products that they have repeatedly been presented with is unproductive and may even stop them from returning to that particular site – speaking from experience.
Re-targeting is not the only problem with current means of digital advertising, as issues regarding privacy and use of data are only growing. With new laws and regulations rolling in such as the GDPR and the CCPA, it is becoming progressively notable that consumers are surfeited by the exhausting ways that advertisers use their data to promote products. From Cambridge Analytica to an abundant amount of other Facebook scandals, we are only becoming more vigilant about how websites and social media platforms are using our information against us. With such caution, many are beginning to believe that these platforms are going as far as listening to our everyday conversations in order to generate advertisements relating to such discussions. Whilst platforms such as Facebook have continuously denied this, it is clear that consumers are overly disturbed with the obscene amount of information that these large-scale platforms actually know about them, reflected through aggressive online advertising.
It is important to keep in mind that today’s generation of internet users are more cautious than ever when it comes to data, privacy and digital advertising. So, advertisers must recognise that re-targeted advertisements are ineffective and overly invasive for consumers, and instead focus on the concepts of prediction and discovery in order to advertise effectively whilst simultaneously enhancing the online experience.