Ads Stalk Consumers Online

Discussion
Aug 04, 2010
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Ever get the feeling you’re being followed online? Well,
as an article on AdAge.com points
out, you are.

The author of the piece, Michael Learmont,  described a recent
experience where he did a search for shorts on Zappos. Following his visit,
which did not result in a purchase, Mr. Learmont noticed the same items in
his search were showing up on ads on a wide variety of sites he visited.

"As a media professional covering online advertising, among other things,
I know why I’m getting these ads," Mr. Learmont wrote. "But as a
consumer I’d be creeped out by it, and definitely a little annoyed, kind of
like the morning my Facebook connections started popping up on sites around
the web."

Mr. Learmont questions whether the type of targeting being done
in this case makes sense for online merchants over the long haul. While it
was easy enough to determine the why behind all the ads showing up for shorts
as he browsed online, that does not make it any less annoying. "If the
industry is truly worried about a federally mandated ‘do not track’ list akin
to ‘do not call’ for the internet, they’re not really showing it," he
wrote.

Discussion Questions: Do you see ads that follow consumers online as doing
more good or bad to the reputations of retailers and brands? Does this activity
make it more or less likely that the government will create a "do not track" list
for companies advertising online?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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11 Comments on "Ads Stalk Consumers Online"


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Alison Chaltas
Guest
Alison Chaltas
10 years 9 months ago

Online advertising is such a powerful tool for retail marketing but we all would be wise to really understand who we are trying to reach, when and with what message. This advice seems obvious but is often disregarded by retailers and manufacturers trying to use the internet to build their brands. The low cost of scale on the web doesn’t help us. It is too easy to scale up online programs and over-saturate the market.

The author talks about being “creeped out” by online ad stalking. The Interscope team agrees and that is such a common response in our research on marketing effectiveness. Consistently, consumers say they don’t like online ads and rate them even lower than TV copy, but they do work so it is a classic case of what consumers and shoppers say and do are disconnected. The holy grail is getting consumers to engage in and enjoy online ads because they are targeted, relevant, build trust and strengthen loyalty.

David Biernbaum
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Consumers become upset when advertisers stalk them online, however, what many consumers do not realize is that they have been stalked offline too, in many different ways, for many years! The difference is that online, sometimes the ads become even more subtle.

Ben Sprecher
Guest
Ben Sprecher
10 years 9 months ago

Calling it “ad stalking” is loading the conversation from the beginning. Calling it “ad personalization” seems more in line with the ideal direction these ads could take. If you search for and shop for baby strollers, it seems only logical that your overall mix of ads across your web surfing experience begins to favor baby products.

As marketing professionals, it’s our responsibility to use the tools available to create ads that are relevant to consumers *without* being annoying.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

I have been the “recipient” of ad stalking. The best at this by far is Amazon.com. I bought a book on photography for a friend’s son from Amazon.com months ago. I am still getting weekly notices about new books on the subject. I researched video cameras online months ago and I’m still getting offers at least twice weekly.

Advertisers are going to follow any path they can in order to bring in the business and justify their contracts. I am sure this will only become more aggressive and sophisticated in the months and years to come.

Jonathan Marek
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Doesn’t everyone know they are tracked online? Isn’t it like walking in London now? It used to be concerning to be on camera 24-7, but after a while, everyone forgets.

Anyway, I think that even from a consumer’s perspective, seeing personalized ads is far better than seeing the pop-up junk ads from 5-10 years ago!

Bernice Hurst
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

On the oft-repeated basis that more people are getting less privacy-concerned (forgive the deliberate poor grammar there but I’m trying to make a point), it probably doesn’t matter a whole lot. For many of us, however, any kind of stalking is anathema and will only serve to make us do less online shopping/browsing. Which would be a total lose/lose result.

Gary Ostrager
Guest
Gary Ostrager
10 years 9 months ago

A few months ago I was thinking of taking a cruise with my family. I didn’t buy, but as time went on I started seeing display ads on the publisher sites. Eventually, I realized it was time to go back to the cruise site. I did, and I booked a cruise. So, retargeting does work. And, it wasn’t the least bit intrusive.

Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
10 years 9 months ago

I also have to disagree with the term “ad-stalking.” I too favor the term ad-personalization.

Let’s face it, we’re evolving out of an advertising world that’s been doing things the same way for hundreds of years–broadcast, interrupt and sell. And we all hated that too!

It’s going to take a while for us to get our arms around personalized marketing messages coming to us but I can’t help but believe that once marketers get it right, we all win.

Tim Henderson
Guest
Tim Henderson
10 years 9 months ago

If or when the “do not track” registry gets launched, I’ll be signing up. I regularly experience the tracking described by the author, and I agree that it’s creepy. Makes me feel like my every online move is being watched. And unfortunately none of the ads feel personalized. I also wonder about their effectiveness. They pop up with such frequency that the only thing the brand does accomplish is coming off as desperate and annoying.

E Allen
Guest
E Allen
10 years 9 months ago

I’m really into securing my computers and need to allow cookies to each site (including RetailWire) and I still see some of this ad following. I’m also one that does a lot of oddball and off the wall searching/comparing, and this really makes some of the ad-trackers do crazy things.

I really do not like to be tracked in anything that I do, so I do whimsical searches and comparisons to keep from being well-defined on the web.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

It feels creepy because it IS creepy. Imagine someone following you around in the mall to note your preferences; would you appreciate the fact that ads you saw were more personalized? I make a point of writing off companies that follow me around online and I’m sure I’m not alone.

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