Alex Maslakoff

Things related to software development, security, marketing, e-commerce.

How an ad that seems to have wrong targeting may still affect you

published: 19 Aug 2019

Here in Tbilisi, Georgia recently I had a chat with someone. He mentioned that he considered to begin to provide advertisement services in the Internet. “More and more advertisements have been moving to the Web”.

“On the other hand, people also become blind to ads in the Internet” - I replied.

“Yes, but I think that the visitor of a website is being blind to an ad only when targeting is done incorrectly” - he said. “When an ad of a thing or service is shown to me – a thing or a service I know I need – I’ll watch an ad and check out an offer with interest.”

That conversation made think. When the visitor is shown an ad he knows he doesn’t need, that’s bad targeting.

Or is it? A mistake is to assume that “an ad I need” is a binary thing. Namely, either I need an ad, or not. But there’re often times various gradations in between “I need” and “I don’t need that ad”.

Say, you don’t wear sun glasses. When shown an ad of sug glasses, you can perceive it as bad targeting. “I don’t wear sun glasses, I don’t need that ad”. However, once you’ve been exposed to an ad of sun glasses enough times, you might beging to change your opinion about them. Now you begin to imagine yourself wearing them. With even more exposure to that ad, down the road you might end up buying them.

Consider a more difficult case, a gadget from emerging technology which most people unfamiliar with. Say, a virtual reality headset. The 1st time you seen an ad of a virtual reality headset, you’ll disregard it. However, your perception might gradually change as follows:

“I don’t know what that shit is” -> “Ohhhh, that’s that thing, I’ve already seen it several times” -> “Interesting, what do people in internet tell about it? ” -> “Interesting gadget, I might want to try it sometime” -> “I should consider buying it, perhaps” –> “Likely, I’ll buy it when I have money”

Seemingly untargeted ad in reality may very well be targeted. It’ll still do its job. Its job is to get you to buy a thing. In some cases it’ll longer.

Bad targeting does exist. If you’re a man in your 60ies and are shown an ad of shoes for 5-year old kid, that can be bad targeting. And still, that as well might make you consider buying those for your extended family member or a kid of your friends.

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