January 17, 2019

We’ve all been there.

You’re looking to buy a gift or simply browsing online for a new pair of shoes.

But, for whatever reason, you decide that it’s not quite time to make that purchase, so you swiftly close the website.

And then – BOOM.

The next time you open a browser, or scroll through Facebook or Instagram, all of your devices are instantly loaded with advertisements of that exact gift or different styles of shoes you were looking at earlier.

These adverts are literally stalking you – even appearing on websites that have absolutely no relation to the gift or shoes you were looking at earlier on.  Or maybe, even worse, you did end up purchasing the items but you’re still stalked by these adverts and you just can’t shake them.

Welcome to Targeted Ads (or, as they might be more aptly named, stalker Ads!)


What is a Targeted Ad?

Targeted ads are born out of our digital viewing habits (the specific traits, interests, and preferences of a consumer).

Quite simply, they remember what we view and, subsequently might buy, online, and then use this information to sell us things advertisers think we might like.

Ever just allowed “cookies” on a website because you just want to get rid of the pop up? Well, one of the most common methods of targeted ads is for a website to create a file called a cookie on your computer.

Then later, when you’re reading up on the latest sports news, automated advertisements read this cookie and generate ads for items related to your visit on that website (even if the two websites are completely unrelated).

Another way for advertisers to acquire your information is through checking your search engine history and finding your personal information on social media.

The positive (or negative) side to these targeted ads is that the advertisements you see are essentially tailored to you. So, great you’ve spotted a lovely new jacket and decide to buy it – unfortunately, it is not uncommon for these targeted ads to still linger long after you have purchased it.


Privacy issues

It’s important to remember that nothing you do online is private.  Essentially the more information you share on the internet, the more advertisers know about you, and can assume what your buying habits are.

Have you ever heard the saying:

“If you’re not paying to use a service, you’re the product”

So, taking Facebook as an example – it’s completely free to use.  The fact it is, essentially, means that you’re the product.  Facebook is a multi-billion dollar business because, whether we like it or not, it sells our data.

But, all is not lost.  We can all start to take a little bit of action to restrict these types of adverts if we don’t like the idea of advertisers knowing our viewing habits.


How to stop targeted ads

Below are a few tips to help you stop or reduce the number of ads that you see:

  • To simply stop seeing ads, you might wish to consider downloading a reputable ad blocker for your web browser;
  • Regularly clear your cookies and ask websites not to track you. You can do this in the Privacy settings of your web browser;
  • Request for participating Ad agencies to stop tracking your information. You can do this by visiting various reputable opt-out sites;
  • Limit the amount of information you share on your social media accounts. This will help reduce the amount of information that advertisers learn about you;
  • Reset your advertising ID if you are using an Android or Apple phone. This advertising ID helps marketers track you, but you can reset it whenever you want:

– On Android devices, the reset button is in the ads menu inside the Google settings app;

– On iPhones, the reset button can be located in the settings app, under the privacy menu, then advertising.

  • Take a look at your Google ad history every now and again using the My Activity tool. Here, you can choose to delete what data Google has stored about you, including the history of ads you have loaded;
  • Utilise the private browsing mode which doesn’t record your history or cookies.
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