Every now and then, occasionally but increasingly frequently, I’m blown away by the efficacy of today’s targeted advertising. It may be purely coincidental ad placement, but sometimes the accuracy of an online ad is precisely right. When it hits the spot, advertising can actually be a good thing for everyone involved: a prospective buyer getting more relevant information on goods they actually want to purchase, an advertiser who ultimately transacts with a new customer, and the platform on which the connection was made. As wonderful as it can be, it feels a creepy when the targeted ad is so exactly right. How did they know? What information are they using to surface that particular ad at the most opportune moment? Was my information gathered without my permission or knowledge and traded to other parties in order for the ad to be delivered? I don’t know, and this lack of understanding makes me wonder and causes a bit of concern as to what other profile and behavioral information are being mined and traded about me.
These eerily accurate and spooky ads do haunt me at times when they hit the nail on the head. With so much at stake in the arms race of advertising, it seems that these types of spooky ads are happening so much that I’m going to start tracking and documenting them as #spookyadvertising.
Here’s the first example with context. On Saturday July 2nd 2016, I went into a Banana Republic in Union Square San Francisco and looked at their men’s shirts. I was looking for shirts that I could wear untucked at work, because in general I hate tucking in my shirt. I looked around the store and even asked someone who worked at Banana Republic about shirts that I could wear without tucking them in. After browsing a bit, I left without buying anything. Later that day, I got this ad on my twitter. This ad was for an online apparel company called Untuckit that sold shirts that are to be worn untucked. It was essentially a perfect ad. I browsed the site a couple times over the next two days and made a purchase.
How did they know I was looking to buy untucked shirts? It could be pure coincidence, or perhaps there was insight derived by my visit to a physical store at Banana Republic. I find it hard to believe that this ad was targeted based on the conversation I had in the store with a Banana Republic sales clerk. I’m still wondering exactly how they knew to surface that particular ad to me since it worked well in many different ways. Perhaps it’s a damn good guess as to what I would want to see in ad, and considering over 99.999% of ads surfaced to me don’t work, perhaps finally the odds were in this ads favor. #spookyadvertising.
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