[ This is an email I sent to the Berkman center Project VRM list a week or so ago. I am still getting the “Trump Tower” ads everywhere I go on the internet in my main web browser. ]
Ad retargeting is when google (and others) can target the ads based on your prior behaviour.
A per recent example: if I go to shopify, but don’t open an account, for the next few days I will be “followed around” the web with shopify ad banners on a lot of the sites I go to. The same has happened to me with Limos.com (which I use and think rocks), and page.ly – which I looked at some time ago.
I dislike ad retargeting because I actually *preferred* to see the old fashioned “contextually matched” ads that were based on the content of the web page I was viewing – why? Because if I was searching out a specific subject and landed on a page, I would get served ads from businesses that are actually in that space and I found it would educate me more about what’s going on – in that space.
When I am seeing retargeted ads based on my previous behaviour, if I search on google for “how to program a key fob for a volvo s60” I may land on a volvo forums board, where instead of possibly seeing a banner ad from somebody selling discount fobs, I would instead see an ad for shopify, or page.ly or some other website I was on a few days ago or weeks ago for whatever reason.
I don’t respond to those ads, but apparently ad retargeting is hot because it converts very well.
Fast forward to last week, when I was happily oblivious to the existence of Trump Towers here in Toronto, until I walked past it the other day (with my iPhone out looking up an address) – and realized “hey, that Trump Towers in Toronto is now open.”
Suddenly, I am now getting ads all over the place for Trump Towers Toronto – on my laptop, when I hit zerohedge, when I hit businessinsider, etc.
So now I am wondering…. have I been inundated with these ads all the while but haven’t noticed until now, now that I’ve walked past the place and noticed it? Or, did something on my iphone (yes, I had GPS location and bluetooth enabled on it) phone home, and that data was later cross referenced with my identity on my apple laptop and now is retargeting Trump Tower ads to me?
Do I sound paranoid? If there’s a perfectly non-intrusive explanation for all this, is what I described too far off given the technology we have these days?
I am reminded of the scene in “Minority Report” where our protagonist is on the run through a shopping mall while all the displays are whispering offers and incentives at him and it makes me think that’s where we’re headed if VRM *doesn’t* take off.