Brand Cyberstalking

Yes, that lingerie would fit you perfectly

Ever looked at goods or services online but decided not to buy at that moment in time? Of course you have. Perhaps you thought that you would like more time to consider your options or check your finances. Maybe you just didn’t like the products available. But wasn’t it strange that when you checked the latest news stories, it just so happened that the very same retailer was advertising on that site? What a coincidence.

The following day, you check out the online weather forecast and the latest sports results. And the same ad is on those sites too! Wow, that company must be really doing well, they have so much money to invest in blanket advertising campaigns, mustn’t they?

Well, no, they probably don’t. What you have experienced is known as ‘behavioural re-targeting’. As you have shown some initial interest in brands by visiting their websites, they know that it takes, on average, seven contacts with a customer before a purchase is made, and believe that it’s perfectly reasonable to follow you around the internet, serving their ads multiple times in a rampant display of overkill, designed to encourage purchases by napalm advertising.

For me, this has the opposite effect. I don’t want to peruse a website, only to find that I can’t shake off the attentions of an over-eager ad server; the online equivalent of a dog dry humping my leg because I patted its head. Down boy! What’s worse, is that I was even ‘cyberstalked’ by a retailer that I had bought some clothes from. With ads showing me what I had just bought!

Imagine if the same happened whilst shopping offline, in the high street. You’ve just tried on a rather fetching top, but you’re late to meet a friend and want to think on it. So, thanking the salesman for his assistance, you saunter off to have a skinny latte and catch up with your friend. Yet, who should spring from behind the bins in the alley alongside Starbucks? Yep, it’s the salesman again. “Maybe you’d prefer this top instead? Or this one… or this one” he says, rotating hangers of similar items. Clearly you’re not interested.

And you’re even less interested when you visit the local cinema the next day, and the same salesman pops up behind the counter, telling you that the jodhpurs he’s holding would go wonderfully with the two tickets to see Warhorse. You report him for stalking.

So why exactly do marketers think it’s acceptable to harass their potential customers online? Let’s hope that Ann Summers doesn’t re-target. That could lead to some awkward conversations if you share a home computer.

No, don’t want them

And why do they insist on using irritating, rotating ads, showing as many products as possible… for 0.5 seconds each? It looks like the conveyor belt on the Generation Game television show. I half expect to see a cuddly toy trundle past.

As you can tell, I take my cyberspace privacy seriously. Invade it at your peril. But I do realise that there is some potential in behavioural re-targeting. I work in advertising. I get that.

But please, all the brands out there, limit the exposure for crying out loud. And why not delay the ad re-serving for a while? Give us some breathing space why don’t you?

9 thoughts on “Brand Cyberstalking

  1. I don’t mind if the weather forecast follows me around. Except it probably has a “circle” of followers too.

    I do not like to be geospatially tracked without my permission either.

    • I’d be surprised if anything not commercially motivated followed you around the internet.

  2. I hate it when I go to a website and I hear “You Have Won”
    I hate it, hate it, hate it.
    Yes on ad breathing space for us consumers …

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