Get Out of My Yard: Why I Don’t Want Targeted Ads

I don’t want them.  I.  Don’t want.  Them.


One of the first rules to effective communication is to never enter a debate with a group of people you respect if you know they will all vigorously disagree with you.  It’s hard to get out of the gate when you lead with your chin.

I’m fixing to break that rule.

Two of my friends, Louis Gray and Jesse Stay, are agreeing that targeted ads are not as bad as some of us think they are.  And that the binary nature of the current do-not track applications is not ideal.  Either because targeted ads are better than random ads, or because there is or might one day be a better way to control personal data.  I like and respect both of these guys and generally agree with them on technological issues.

But not this time.

While there may one day be better ways to keep people from spying on me, there aren’t now.  And since the internet at large is waging war on our privacy and our ability to protect the boundaries between the online content we seek and the content developers want to force upon us, do-not track solutions are the best cover we can find.  Sure, if I’m getting shot at, I’d prefer to take cover in a tank, but if there’s not one handy, a burned out minivan will do.

I fricking hate targeted ads (actually I hate all ads, but I have to pick my battles).  I wish that every business that thinks it needs to track my comings and goings in an effort to trick me into parting with some of my hard-earned money would go out of business this very second.  This very second.  I’d rather stare at a blank screen than think some online operator  is secretly sizing me up, waiting to sell me the snake oil de jour.

For one, it’s a complete waste of time, since I have never knowingly clicked on an online ad.  I understand that some ads have to be there, and that’s fine.  Whichever ones I can’t block with my redundant ad-blocking extensions are free to sit up there and take up some screen space.  Maybe one day I’ll accidently click on one and then accidently enter my credit card details and whatnot.  It’s pretty unlikely, but at least theoretically possible.  And the whole ad impressions as the universal business plan is pretty theoretical anyway.

Just gather eyeballs and somehow they will magically turn into cash.

Except obviously not, because now they want to spy on us to find out what they might have a better chance of suckering us into buying.


Newsflash: I don’t need you to tell me what I want to buy.  I already know, and anything I need is a web search away.

Secondly, if I want some anonymous company to follow me around and tell me what it thinks I want, I’ll ask.  Like Amazon.  It knows what I buy there (not because of some stupid ad, but because I go there and buy things I want, and allow it to make recommendations to me).  So it makes suggestions for me.  And yes, I’ve found things I like that way- mostly books and music, which lend themselves to patterns and whatnot.  I’ve found lots of good music via Pandora, which I allow to track my musical tastes and apply it against its genome.  And Netflix, which doesn’t have any decent new DVD releases anymore, but used to make decent recommendations to me.

There is value added there, because I have decided I want music and videos and I allowed those services to see some of my online activity.

I understand there is lots of this stuff already in play.  Gmail being a prime example, I suppose.  I don’t see any ads in Gmail because I block them.  I guess they’re like stars during the day- they’re up there somewhere, but I can’t see them.

I sure as hell wouldn’t let some grocer peek in my window and then offer to sell me a root beer when I walk out the door because he saw me drinking my beloved Diet A&W’s.

But all of that is just chatter.  I don’t want targeted ads, because I don’t want them.  Period.

Go find a better business plan.  One that doesn’t coopt me as your marketing R&D department.

Another of the primary rules of communication is not to force people to consume what they know they don’t want.  If you want me to buy your merchandise, then spend your money making something really good.  If it’s good and I decide I need it, I’ll find you.

You won’t need to sneak up on me.

6 thoughts on “Get Out of My Yard: Why I Don’t Want Targeted Ads

  1. let’s talk about root beer. I would rather see and most likely subsequently ignore an ad for root beer than an ad for a miracle root beer absorbing tampon. because I would never buy a tampon, no matter what it claimed to soak up.

    on the other hand, I _might_ be interested in buying a new brand of root beer if the offer was right. because I do buy root beer. and unlike diet coke, my brand allegiance is not absolute.

    advertising is not necessarily or always about selling. the end goal _is_ usually to increase the viewer’s inclination to act by delivering new information or a compelling promotion. admittedly, in many categories the innovation ceiling is very low, so the “new” information is often crap. however, a good advertisement for a category in which the viewer is interested tells the viewer something they didn’t know.

    how does targeted advertising makes sense for me? it reduces the number of white-garbed euphemizing tampon-users I have to see, while increasing my exposure to product categories whose technological advances I actually care about.

    how does targeted advertising make sense for the advertiser? it puts their ads in front of people who might use the information and reduces exposure to people who don’t care about their message.

    how does targeted advertising make sense for the media? in the days of print, it was about the exposures. now, in most cases, the media get paid when the viewer clicks. if the root beer message gets to more people who buy root beer and fewer soda-hating menstruators, the cash register rings more often.

    if someone wants my attention and is paying for a shot at it, targeted advertising makes sense for everyone.

  2. I certainly have some privacy issues pertaining to the internet, but in general, I sorta like the idea of targeted ads.

    Nobody can force you to buy anything(Except for the government, under Obamacare.), and targeted ads are no exception. Targeted ads are really no different than any other kind of ad, from that perspective, in that they can only sell you something if they show you something you decide you want and are willing to pay for.

    Targeted ads succeed(when they do) because they are more likely to show you something you want to buy.

    Privacy issues are a serious concern for me. Getting ads selling stuff I actually like is not a problem for me, although I don’t want that kind of ads exclusively. I want some randomness as well.

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