You Are Being Watched

Have you ever wondered why Facebook is showing you the latest Adidas sports shoes when you were just recently on their website? Or why a random website you’re looking at is also showing an ad at the top of the page of an Adidas promotion which ends on Friday? This my friend, is what they call targeted advertising; a way of placing ads based on the demographics of consumers, their previous buying history, or behaviour (Hearst Newspapers, 2015). Let me explain the types of targeted advertising.

Firstly we have social networking ads which utilise social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as a way of advertising based on who’s liking what, and your friends’ activities online. Take for example Facebook. Recently, I’ve been searching for flights to LA for my trip to the US, which brings me to how surprised (but then not surprised) I was to find this on my news feed:

facebook adWhen I went on to click ‘Why am I seeing this ad?’ I saw the image below which explains I was seeing an ad of because they wanted “…to reach people of Facebook through Criteo an advertising company that uses Facebook’s ad exchange.” Criteo is an international business which has digital performance advertising as its core focus. So this demonstrates companies’ use of external marketing businesses to tailor their advertising to targeted consumers who use Facebook.

facebook infoThe second type of advertising is search engine ads which display advertisements at the top and right hand side of search engines (e.g. Google) based on your searches for example:

search engine adsAs we can see, based on my search of one of Babolat’s racquets, Google has displayed 3 ads at the top of the page as well as on the right hand side (which we can recognise as ads with the small yellow square displaying the word ‘Ad’) as well as pictures of racquets and their prices on the right also which is a sponsored ad.

Lastly, we have behavioural ads which show up on websites you view based on your purchasing and browsing habits. As shown below, we can see that once I searched and looked at a particular Babolat tennis racquet, an advertisement for that particular product is shown when I’m reading articles on and when I’m ‘attempting’ to read an article for an assignment.

behavioural 1

behavioural 2In summary, targeted advertising has become a regular part of online advertising. Companies are now utilising demographics and data based on consumer habits in order to be able to target their advertisements on particular consumers who would be interested. Although, this doesn’t go without criticisms. A recent global study conducted by Adobe on 1250 Australian consumers found that 84% of Australians believe companies collect too much personal information about them, 87% believe there are too many technologies tracking and analysing the behaviour of consumers, and 73% believe “it’s creepy when companies target advertisements to consumers based on their behaviour”. In turn, 82% feel they have lost their privacy which brings me to my final questions to you – do you feel you’ve lost your sense of privacy because of targeted advertising used today? Have you ever been targeted yourself? I’d love to hear from you.


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