Do you know what “personalized retargeting” is?

Steve Madden boots

Steve Madden boots (on sale, of course)

Recently, I clicked on a Facebook ad for a cute pair of boots.

At first, I wasn’t surprised to continue to see the boots advertised on FB. After all, FB knew I’d clicked on their ad.

Then, the boots ad just didn’t go away. Even after I bought the damned things. Which I swear I did on day 2 of the ads, not on day 32.

Another day I decided to research tents. The very cool kind that snaps up almost by itself. I don’t really enjoy camping, but I was having a sentimental moment about Jurassic Park and recalled the red tents with the teeny tiny air conditioners in them. I was surfing.

Now I see Coleman’s “instant tents” everywhere. On Facebook. On results pages for completely unrelated searches. In my sleep.

I am a victim of personalized retargeting (or remarketing), and you are, too, no doubt.

So what’s the deal?

Personalized retargeting started about four years ago, a natural outgrowth of cookies — the kind that some web sites slip to your browser to keep track of what you do on their web site. These cookies, though, get passed on to other web sites that are part of an ad company’s “circle” of approved web sites. Not really intrusive, by definition.

To a great extent, we’ve all gotten used to being tracked online, whether we’re shopping for boots or bananas. Google has an retargeting ad service and so does Microsoft.

Only recently have the ads become so incredibly precise that users are getting creeped out.

These days, I don’t have to even visit a social media venue in order for my surfing “behavior” to become known. I visit one site and by the time I get to FB, poof: so is the underwear I was just looking at. (This could get embarrassing for multi-computer users.)

Weird, but I’m only just starting to hear friends talk about the unsettling nature of these hyper-targeted ads.

Digital advertising will probably get to the point of industry regulation. But maybe not as soon as we think.

So the retargeting “ads” you see are pretty much constructed on the spot for whatever product you show an interest in. You can opt out if you can follow one of the ads to its source — for instance, Criteo or Tellapart.

Virtually nothing about an individual, say retargeting services, is saved. Others believe that highly personalized remarketing goes too far and is also unnecessary.

Is your privacy being mined? A lot of markets say “no,” but that’s something that Facebook can’t say. FB has been collecting data from us for more than 10 years: which groups, people, causes, and other things we like. Not to mention our answers to crazy quizzes. And our ages, addresses, genders, and so forth.

Still, I would really appreciate it if the retargeting magnates could at least STOP showing me my boots after I buy them. That’s just sloppy. And it’s making me feel a little guilty.

And now, you must let me know if my boots follow YOU around.

Read also:


Personalized retargeting — what you need to know

by susan time to read: 2 min

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