Once Again: It's Not Clear The Internet Needs Creepy Targeted Ads

from the things-work-out dept

There seems to be a general argument, perhaps believed by folks at Google and Facebook in particular, that they need to suck up all this data about us to provide more and more targeted advertising. I'm still not at all convinced that's true. Earlier this year, I suggested that Google and Facebook might be better off if they just admitted that targeted advertising didn't work as well as people like to pretend it works. The fact is that it doesn't work all that well, and comes with massive costs in terms of everyone thinking that all these companies want to do is suck up more and more data. And the "advantage" over other forms of advertising (contextual, brand, etc.) are really not that great. Earlier this month we highlighted a study that showed that, for publishers, targeted advertising didn't show any real benefit, and that it was mainly being used to prop up the fees middlemen got, in being able to claim some magic sauce to better target ads.

Now, the NY Times has published an op-ed by DuckDuckGo CEO, Gabriel Weinberg making the exact same point: the internet doesn't need creepy advertising to have a workable business model. Indeed, what made Google a success in the first place was the fact that its non-creepy, non-privacy instrusive contextual advertising was so freaking profitable because it worked amazingly well:

There is no reason to fear that sites cannot still make money with advertising. That’s because there are already two kinds of highly profitable online ads: contextual ads, based on the content being shown on screen, and behavioral ads , based on personal data collected about the person viewing the ad. Behavioral ads work by tracking your online behavior and compiling a profile about you using your internet activities (and even your offline activities in some cases) to send you targeted ads.

Contextual advertising doesn’t need to know anything about you: Search for “car” and you get a car ad. Over the past decade, contextual ads have been displaced by behavioral ads, aided by the rise of real-time bidding technology that auctions off each ad on a site based on user profiling. These behavioral ads are the ones that leave a bad taste in your mouth. They follow you around from website to mobile app based on your private information and, intentionally or not, enable online discrimination, manipulation and the creation of filter bubbles.

I'd argue that Weinberg leaves out general brand advertising as well, which can work well. Part of the problem, though, is that behavioral and programmatic advertising gives the illusion of being "scientific" because you can show data (even if that data is meaningless or misleading). As soon as you can insist that you'll be able to show data, then people get wowed by it, and think that they've magically solved the "I know that half of my ad spending is wasted, I just don't know which half" problem. But the real problem is that even with all this behavioral targeting, most advertisers are still wasting way more than half their ad spend. It's just that they can show pretty charts and spreadsheets to pretend they have data to back up that they're doing the right thing.

This is a point we've raised before. We've been talking to companies for a few years now, trying to convince them to advertise on Techdirt in a non-creepy way with no tracking. And what has happened, multiple times, is that a marketing person gets excited and talks about how "this is great" and how they know that they can get a lot of people interested in what they're offering if they were to support Techdirt just knowing that our audience would appreciate them being cool enough not to track them. And then it gets handed off to an ad team or a digital agency or an ad firm that they outsource this stuff to, and eventually someone has a spreadsheet. And doing a branding campaign without creepy tracking doesn't fit into a spreadsheet. So they pass. And waste a bunch of money on someone who will give them data, no matter how meaningless.

Weinberg is right that there's no reason it needs to be this way. It's just that some people have become so enamored with "data" that they don't bother to understand what actually works.

On top of that, he points out that focusing on creepy ads has lots of other costs as well -- including pissing off your users who are much more open to alternatives.

What about compliance costs? Companies are quickly realizing that good privacy practices are a boon for business. People increasingly want to reduce their digital footprint and so choose companies that help them do so. Companies with good privacy practices in their DNA do not face significant compliance costs.

Much of Weinberg's op-ed is in support of stronger privacy laws, and I'm less in agreement with him there. I'm not against all privacy rules -- but I do worry about the unintended consequences of many of the approaches proposed. Not on the revenue prospects for Google or Facebook. As noted above, they don't need to be so creepy. But, on how it might impact other aspects of the internet. We've already seen this with the GDPR and how it's being used to stifle speech and actually entrench the power of Google and Facebook. I honestly just wish that companies -- both the internet ones and the advertisers who buy the ads -- would just start to realize that sucking up all this data may have sounded like a good idea, but has actually been a complete failure, and start to move away from that model. It's not necessary.

Filed Under: brand advertising, contextual advertising, data, privacy, privacy laws, surveillance capitalism, targeted advertising
Companies: duckduckgo, facebook, google


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  • icon
    hij (profile), 25 Jun 2019 @ 9:16am

    What are the alternatives?

    If someone (me) is running a website and does not want to use google adwords or some other pack of creeps, what are the other options?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tom a sparks (profile), 25 Jun 2019 @ 11:32am

      Re: What are the alternatives?

      some options are:

      • affiliate programs
      • Patreon / crowdfunding options
      • selling wares (eg: branded merchandise)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2019 @ 2:52pm

        Re: Re: What are the alternatives?

        For completeness, "nothing" is an option. That is, don't show ads and don't replace them with anything. If intrusive advertising only brings a tiny income, as many site operators have found, and if the site doesn't cost much to run, they should seriously consider that.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 26 Jun 2019 @ 1:19am

        Re: Re: What are the alternatives?

        There's also nothing stopping you from taking ads directly without using an agency. The "creepiness" factor is really just large agencies trying to better target their ads, but you don't have to use them in order to take ads (although whether the extra work in doing so is worth the effort is another question).

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 25 Jun 2019 @ 9:49am

    And the "advantage" over other forms of advertising (contextual, brand, etc.) are really not that great.

    This is technically true, but not nearly strong enough to accurately convey the truth: the "advantage" is actually of negative magnitude. It causes more harm to you, in terms of consumers' perception of your product, than you end up gaining by better targeting.

    As soon as you can insist that you'll be able to show data, then people get wowed by it, and think that they've magically solved the "I know that half of my ad spending is wasted, I just don't know which half" problem.

    ...and this is a big part of the reason why. From a human-psychology perspective, the half-my-ad-spending-is-wasted "problem" is actually what makes advertising work at all. If I see two ads for competing products, and one of them signals to me that the people behind it are spending the money trying to reach as broad an audience as possible, that tells me something useful about how much confidence they have in the product. If the other one is clearly targeted at me, that "confidence signal" isn't there. For all I know, I could be the only person seeing this ad, and that means that suddenly I'm not an audience anymore; I'm a mark.

    I know which of the two I'd rather buy from!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 25 Jun 2019 @ 3:21pm

      Re:

      I never saw any good in targeted ads in the first place. If I know what I want/need, a targeted ad isn't helping any, just wasting my time, and if I don't know what I want, a targeted ad isn't going to have it, again wasting my time. If you're going to have a chance at catching a customer via ads, it really needs to be random and rely on chance. That's why stores periodically shuffle everything around and make you walk past everything - you may randomly come across something you want.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 26 Jun 2019 @ 1:50am

        Re: Re:

        "If I know what I want/need, a targeted ad isn't helping any, just wasting my time, and if I don't know what I want, a targeted ad isn't going to have it, again wasting my time"

        A large part of the point isn't just to sell you what you want, but also avoid selling you what you don't want. Think of TV ads - it doesn't matter how many times I see tampon ads or promos for a new reality TV show, I'm never ever going to invest in those things. An advertising agency will therefore not want to waste your time or theirs, and push things you might wish to buy. You may still not be swayed, but I know I'm certainly going to be swayed more by seeing an ad
        for a new gadget than a new line of makeup...

        The "creepy" factor here is merely that they are now able to target you individually rather than just by the "well, people in demographic X are more likely to watch this show and will be more likely to buy product Y" general targeting that they had to use in the past.

        "That's why stores periodically shuffle everything around and make you walk past everything - you may randomly come across something you want."

        If you think that's random or depends on randomness, there's an entire industry you need to look at more closely.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2019 @ 10:55am

    Just this morning my wife was browsing Instagram in bed before leaving for work and commented "looks like Instagram figured out I'm looking for a new meal delivery service" which she has been doing since as early as this past Saturday.

    While obviously creepy, I'm really just relieved they haven't started showing her ads for husbands yet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Doug Wheeler (profile), 25 Jun 2019 @ 11:17am

    General case vs niche

    That study about targeted advertising is probably true in the general case with fairly mainstream products. It doesn't work so well with niche products. If I'm trying to sell oscilloscopes, there's no value in advertising to 99.9% of the public. This is true of any product that only targets a small percentage of the public.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2019 @ 11:28am

      Re: General case vs niche

      True, but you potential audience will visit electronics web sites, watch electronic videos, and search for electronic products. You can still have your adverts targeted, and not need to collect lots of data about people.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 Jun 2019 @ 8:05am

        Re: Re: General case vs niche

        you potential audience will visit electronics web sites, watch electronic videos

        Those will be the best kind of advertisements too. A scope popping up on a "creepy" out-of-context ad tells me very little, whereas if I've seen a tutorial for it, all things being roughly equal, why not buy that model?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      TKnarr (profile), 25 Jun 2019 @ 11:30am

      Re: General case vs niche

      The flip side of that is that the people who are in the market for oscilloscopes probably don't register that way to the ad-targeting algorithms because they're only rarely in the market for them and the other 99.9% of their activity swamps any useful indications. If you're trying to sell oscilloscopes, you're better off not trying to figure out which users in your market are interested and putting the effort/resources into advertising aimed at anyone who's looking for oscilloscopes. That's actually fairly trivial, and Google did a land-office business doing just that in it's first decade or so: have your ads put on sites that would pop up high on the list of sites matching the keywords "oscilloscope" and "for sale"/"purchase"/"buy", or on the ad column of the search results page when the search keyword list contains "oscilloscope".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Jun 2019 @ 3:50am

      Re: General case vs niche

      That study about targeted advertising is probably true in the general case with fairly mainstream products. It doesn't work so well with niche products. If I'm trying to sell oscilloscopes, there's no value in advertising to 99.9% of the public. This is true of any product that only targets a small percentage of the public.

      If so, then why do you see so many advertisements for luxury car brands that 99.9% of the public will never be able to afford? Those are niche products every bit as much as specialized tools are, but they advertise broadly anyway, to make sure that the brand recognition is out there, because 0.1% of 300 million people is still a lot of potential sales!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 25 Jun 2019 @ 11:23am

    Problems..

    you go looking for 1 thing, and then every place I look, I see SUGGESTIONS of the product..
    There is something that Kinda worries me..
    When they ask Questions..
    They START at How much do you earn?
    <$40,000 is the first.
    That leaves out Everyone under $20 per hour. Probably Over 70% of the USA,..
    Only adverts i see that ARE REASONABLE prices tend to be Amazon, newegg. and Very few others...

    I went REAL and internet, shopping and looking for a common item. Cotton Clothing. To much of the stuff Iv seen recently Dies in a few months with holes in them.(seen underwear last longer). I look around and I see Choices on the net(reasonable but I CANT CHECK the quality). And all of a sudden, NO stores are carrying Cotton/mix Shorts.. They all went to Polyester..$20+ each. Im looking for Good quality Cotton, $6-10..Which Should not be hard..
    I even looked up the Trade of Cotton on the markets and its Funny, that the prices arent any higher then in the 70's..
    I keep looking local.. Even the Salvation army has Crap or none.. Finally found some, DECENT shorts and shirts.. K Mart. Their OWN BRAND...$12 for shorts and Shirts $10.(they all just went on sale)..(K mart is part of the Sears stores, and they are dieing fast)

    And for Some strange reason, every place the internet sent me was 2 times more expensive. and You can not check the quality.

    We are getting to a point where Finding something to compare is Either you KNOW the product, or you buy CRAP...
    Going out and Looking at stuff to buy is getting hard. i would think, that Soon we will have Display stores, with only products to see and compare....and buy on the net.

    It would be great of the opinions and survey's they do, REALLY covered my end of the world, but everything they ask tends to be Inthe IDEALs of those in RICH Areas. Not rural or fringe areas.. And That May cause this country to seperate.. Another Civil war?? anyone??

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 25 Jun 2019 @ 11:31am

      Re: Problems..

      Oh!..
      And if this site wishes to advert, I would suggest you ask for the Advert materials from the Locations you would like, or be willing to advert for. then ask for a Link# to connect to the Advert so they know that there was a click thru from your site.(they already Do check Click thru, but wont admit it).
      But you can setup your own monthly counter, so you know WHO went from here..
      Amazon and new egg do this, thru affiliate connections, and how Yyoutubers Do it..
      you could even give a Shopping page, of links to All kinds of location..from army surplus to Auto sales..

      WE would be proud to click away and every day..

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2019 @ 11:31am

    Some how, after all the news articles about i,t there are still fools who still believe that when main stream media present an article that the media is telling the truth.

    The main stream media is not in the business of presenting news. They are in the business of gathering intelligence in two forms. Aggregate where they tale large numbers of individual inputs and formulate aggregate conclusions. And, specific where they spy on specific individuals to ascertain what these individuals are doing. Some time this latter is government officials, some time business and sometimes it is hell raisers; some times the target is domestic, sometimes foreign but almost never is it random unimportant people. The resources to spy on all unimportant people simply does not exist.

    That raises the question of what are targeted adds for. How about a cover up of above.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Darkness Of Course (profile), 25 Jun 2019 @ 11:50am

      Re: Smoking the tin foil hat again.

      Main stream media is a flag for right-wing, white-victim, bullshit artists. They are focused on a few things, but not you personally.

      Of course, with your smoking tin-foil hat, everything is about you. Sigh.

      Frakking coward.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2019 @ 12:12pm

      Re:

      What?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2019 @ 12:16pm

      Re:

      The term Main Stream News has been abused to the point that when used many will search for context in an attempt to ascertain its meaning. When context is lacking, assumptions are made.

      The Main Stream Media, depending upon what you are talking about, is mostly comprised of corporate ownership. What sort of latitude do you think these corporate owned and controlled news entities are allowed in the presentation of the nightly news?

      Not too long ago Sinclair made its local news anchors recite the same script as tho it were news.

      The Truth .... you can't handle the truth - lol.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 26 Jun 2019 @ 3:01am

      Re:

      "The main stream media is not in the business of presenting news. They are in the business of gathering intelligence in two forms. Aggregate where they tale large numbers of individual inputs and formulate aggregate conclusions. And, specific where they spy on specific individuals to ascertain what these individuals are doing."

      That sounds like a typical rube goldberg-esque conspiracy theory, honestly.

      To begin with, "main stream media" is not a consolidated group of predictable pawns of the bavarian illuminati or the NSA - they are a chaotic ever-changing mass of whatever communications company is currently on top, guided by CEO's who change every three years and whose individual agendas are controlled by stockholders who change their portfolios around every few years themselves.

      So if they have any common agenda it'll be "making money". Nothing else.

      Secondly, the presumptive puppet masters you envision there have far easier ways to aggregate such information. Government has PRISM, xKeyscore, and half a dozen other programs allowing them to just lift whatever information they need from about 99% of the population to start with.

      Big business can usually just buy that information from marketing companies, 90% of the time, or, all else failing, buy it straight from the targeted individuals themselves.

      "What are targeted adds for"? Not a cover up, to be sure, because there's nothing to cover up - except possibly the fact that targeted ads is akin to buying the services of a medium or soothsayer - a not-so-borderline scam which right now employs a LOT of people.

      So the reason they aren't going away is pretty obvious. Enough money exists in that industry to have any amount of lobbyists and marketers keep hyping that lucky charm called "targeted ads" for quite some time to come.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 26 Jun 2019 @ 3:20am

        Re: Re:

        "To begin with, "main stream media" ... are a chaotic ever-changing mass of whatever communications company is currently on top"

        You missed the important part - this cannot, for whatever reason, include Fox or other mainstream right-wing organisation, who are exempt from being part of the conspiracy because reasons. The fact that fans of these outlets will often use their supposed greater popularity as proof of their journalistic correctness should also be ignored when considering if they're "mainstream".

        On top of that, the conspiracy has to include sites like Snopes that inform them that the reason why "mainstream media" isn't currently covering something is because it happened years ago, or because it's provably just lies. The random meme they saw on Facebook from some bot is vastly more trustworthy than documented evidence.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 27 Jun 2019 @ 5:22am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "You missed the important part - this cannot, for whatever reason, include Fox or other mainstream right-wing organisation, who are exempt from being part of the conspiracy because reasons."

          Naturally. Conspiracy theorists are by and large not very imaginative. So it's a good thing there are so very many channels out there eager and willing to supply them with ready-made scenarios as to how a given ethnic minority has taken over the world, why secret society X turns frogs gay as a vital step towards establishing world domination, and why aliens have a master plan which mandates that they travel thousands of light years in order to mindfuck political leaders in byzanthine conspiracies on a podunk planet they could conquer within a few minutes with the tech they would have in the glove compartments of their UFO.

          Conspiracy theorists all tend to be "That guy" - the born victim of P.T. Barnum. All too eager to accept ANY pattern someone else can tell them in the form of a story and which fits loosely with their ideology.

          So ironically they whinge about mainstream media, especially the verifiable facts, while at the same time blindly subscribing to some dingbat publication whose main focus is how many innocent rednecks get victimized by grey bulb-headed extraterrestrial ass freaks with anal probes each month.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ole Husgaard (profile), 25 Jun 2019 @ 11:52am

    How I really saw the extent of the tracking

    Years ago I got a new phone, my first smartphone. I do not remember if it was a Samsung Galaxy 3 or 4. It was a company phone, so it was not directly linked to my name or my address.

    For about 3 or 4 months I remembered to always turn off wifi and GPS before going home. In this period the advertisements I saw on my home PC were pretty normal. I never installed any apps on the smartphone that were not preinstalled. And I never opened any of the more creepy apps that cannot be uninstalled, like Facebook Messenger.

    But then one day when I had been out I had been using Google Maps to navigate to a place I did not know, and I forgot to turn off GPS when I was done.

    When I was home I went on the net on my home PC, and suddenly all the advertisements I saw were for smartphone add-ons. This made me check my phone and I discovered that I forgot to turn off GPS. Of course I immediately turned it off.

    But now somebody (hello Google) had made the link between my smartphone and my home PC. And the ads for smartphone add-ons continued for almost half a year, although I never clicked a single one (they freaked me out).

    This was in Denmark. And even with the weaker privacy laws we had at this time, this kind of tracking was supposed to be illegal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2019 @ 1:14pm

      Re: How I really saw the extent of the tracking

      I just want you to think about your anecdote and tell me why you think that they tied your ads based on GPS alone, and not at all because you logged in to, say, Google both on your phone and from home, and it just took time for you to notice?

      I'm not saying you're wrong, but a lot of these stories are really far-fetched and have a more mundane (and more likely) reason for them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Ole Husgaard (profile), 25 Jun 2019 @ 2:53pm

        Re: Re: How I really saw the extent of the tracking

        Because I never logged in to Google or any other service on my new phone before this happened.

        I just used Google Maps for navigation without logging in. And I did that several times in the preceeding months without seing any targeted ads, as I remembered to turn off GPS before returning home.

        There should have been nothing at all linking my work phone to my home PC - until I forgot to turn off GPS before returning home just once.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 26 Jun 2019 @ 2:08am

          Re: Re: Re: How I really saw the extent of the tracking

          GPS alone seems like a hell of a stretch. More likely you signed into a website or into your home wifi or something else.

          I'm not saying you're wrong, but it seems extraordinarily unlikely that they're targeting people using just GPS without even verifying if the devices are owned by the same person (imagine how many false positives you'd get when friends get together at one's home, for example).

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 26 Jun 2019 @ 3:07am

          Re: Re: Re: How I really saw the extent of the tracking

          "Because I never logged in to Google or any other service on my new phone before this happened."

          Odds are, you did. It's almost inescapable that a phone - android or iphone - remains unconnected to an account.

          But where the actual login account usually has some form of security provision surrounding the privacy of the data, extraneous services which require just that one click to verify their use, may gain access to some of your personal data and utilize it under different rules.

          How these monitor networks trigger can become incredibly complex.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Ole Husgaard (profile), 29 Jun 2019 @ 8:56pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: How I really saw the extent of the tracking

            This is what really spooked me. I never wanted a smartphone, but my employer insisted. I know for sure that it had not been used before, as I unwrapped the sealed package myself. And I never logged into any service on my new phone - in fact I had never even browsed the web on this phone before the incident. Also I had not installed any apps, and only used a few of the pre-installed aps (phone calls, SMS, alarm clock and Google Maps).

            I had turned on wifi a few times to download updates to the phone, but I immediately turned it off when done, and wifi was never turned on near my home. I had begun to use Google Maps for navigating while away from home, and turned off GPS again when done.

            But the first time I forgot to turn off GPS after using it with Google Maps for navigation (without logging in to Google) and returned home, almost all Adwords ads on my private home PC were suddenly about smartphone equipment.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tom (profile), 25 Jun 2019 @ 12:46pm

    Another problem with targeted ads is there rarely a way to signal that you no longer are interested in Product A. You search for Product A and start getting ads for Product A. Two days later, you find the version of Product A you want and buy however much you need or can afford. But the targeted ad machinery will keep feeding you ads for Product A long after you finished with that search. End result is a lot of ineffective ad dollars being spent on unwanted ads targeted on someone that is no longer a potential customer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mason Wheeler (profile), 25 Jun 2019 @ 1:09pm

      Re:

      I know someone who kept getting ads from a certain jeweler after having purchased an engagement ring.

      If there ever existed something that you can (hopefully, at least!) never have to ever be a return customer for, it's a freaking engagement ring! You would think the algorithms would have some way to distinguish such purchases...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2019 @ 4:34pm

        Re: Re:

        but do you know the MARKUP on an engagement ring (200-300%), just think of the Mark (I mean Groom) and how much we can Fleece him for (I mean help out).

        Some targeted ads only have to catch a few people to make someone big money.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ole Husgaard (profile), 25 Jun 2019 @ 3:04pm

      Re:

      I can relate to that. Several times I searched for something I wanted to buy and bought it online.

      And then I began to see a lot of ads for what I just purchased. Even if it was something you usually just buy once, and never again for many years.

      Waste of advertising money, but a profit for the advertisement seller.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 26 Jun 2019 @ 2:03am

      Re:

      My favourite is that when I go to booking.com and book a particular hotel room, I keep seeing an ad from booking.com showing that hotel and others for the date I booked. Sometimes at higher prices than the one I just paid.

      The waste of time and resources is almost worth keeping tracking cookies on, as the very last person who's going to be interested in a particular hotel room is someone who's just paid for an identical one.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2019 @ 4:02pm

    The Internet doesn't need creepy targeted ads, but so much money and power is tied up in those ad services that if everyone slammed on the figurative breaks and stopped pretending they worked, there would be a lot of people losing their jobs and a lot of sites possibly shutting down.

    So much of our modern Internet and how tech/ad companies profit off of it is built on fake, flimsy lies that have to be perpetuated as true, even if the people running the tech/ad companies know they're lies, or else the whole system falls apart.

    The whole "Pivot to Video" was based on Facebook's B.S. metrics and data. A money-hungry social network lied, and equally money-hungry media companies believed them, which cost a lot of good journalists their jobs. These same corporations are the ones dependent on the massive cash-flow that comes from the myth that targeted ads work. The worst thing is that if they stop with the targeted-ads cash cow now, the ones who're going to lose their jobs are the folks at the bottom. Everyone at the top who orchestrated the lies about targeted ads in the first place are going to get away scott-free.

    Gotta love the laissez-faire policies (for which numerous politicians are bribed, and which tech pundits relentlessly defend) that enabled tech and media companies to "move fast and break things" in pursuit of that holy "innovation", ushering us into our current era of Late-Stage Capitalism...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 25 Jun 2019 @ 4:07pm

    A problem to be sure, but not the biggest one

    More than targeted vs untargeted, I'd say the biggest problem with ads and those offering/selling them is that their reputation has become so toxic that people will go out of their way to avoid them.

    Whether it's the potential for malware to slip through via an ad, flashing visuals and/or auto-play audio, a good number of people are so utterly done with ads that things like ad-blockers and anti-tracking ad-ons have become effectively mandatory parts of installing a new browser, and at that point it doesn't matter how good the ad is, the user simply isn't going to see it.

    Before weighing the cost/benefits of targeted vs untargeted ads the industry really needs to work on reforming their image and reputation, because until they do that all they're really doing is polishing a turd. Sure it might be shiny, but that doesn't mean anyone's going to want it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2019 @ 7:35pm

    Firstly, going to repeat something I said before. Lets pretend I want a new set of headphones. If you show me ads for speakers, I am not going to click them, because I'm not interested in it. If you show me ads for headphones, I'm still not going to click it. Why would I? Where does the ad go? Is it malvertising? Is the website legitimate? I will go directly an electronic store's site or a reputable source like Amazon. I'm not going to click an ad!

    Secondly, if I visit ABC Corp and then see ads for ABC Corp floating around for the next week, that's not endearing. It's really creepy and it turns me off ABC Corp.

    Thirdly, advertising has become toxic thanks to how pervasive it is. Not content with a webpage being 90% ads, we have ads on bus stops, on trains, on the side of buildings. No matter where you go, there's an ad. Have an app? There's an ad for that. Ads are displayed on overhead highway signs to distract motorists. What was once a large billboard is now a huge screen with speakers. The government even allowed ads to be displayed on the side of the Sydney Opera House!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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