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Retargeting Ads Stalk You For Weeks After You Shop

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the oh-no-that's-not-creapy dept.

Advertising 344

eldavojohn writes "The New York Times is reporting on a new kind of web ad that takes products you were looking at purchasing on one site and continually advertising them in front of you at subsequent sites. After looking at shoes at Zappos, a mother in Montreal noticed the shoes followed her: 'For days or weeks, every site I went to seemed to be showing me ads for those shoes. It is a pretty clever marketing tool. But it's a little creepy, especially if you don't know what's going on.' The spreading ploy is called 'retargeting ads' and really are just a good demonstration of how an old technology (all they use are leftover browser cookies) are truly invasive and privacy violating. Opponents are clamoring for government regulation to protect the consumer and one writer mentioned a consumer 'do not track' list — adding that retailers really show little fear of turning off customers with their invasion."

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344 comments

It seems a bit wrong-headed (5, Insightful)

mutube (981006) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414308)

So... You look at something, decide you *don't* want to buy it... and then they continue to advertise it to you in case what? You change your mind?

????

Profit

EVEN sillier (4, Interesting)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414362)

So I look at a product, BUY it, then am constantly targeted with ads urging me to buy it.

WTF?

Re:EVEN sillier (2, Interesting)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414600)

For certain products, that makes absolute sense. Take, for example, network-attached storage devices. If you bought one, you might buy others.

Happened to me... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33414842)

So I look at a product, BUY it, then am constantly targeted with ads urging me to buy it.

WTF?

Bought an N900 from Amazon. For over a month now i've been slammed with ads for Nokia phones and even the marketing emails Amazon sends are telling me I may be interested in a N900...

WTF?

Re:It seems a bit wrong-headed (5, Informative)

sammy baby (14909) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414386)

For certain items and types of purchases, it makes sense. Maybe I'm looking at purchasing a new TV, then decide to hold off for a bit. But because I happened to browse for one on Overstock.com, I might keep seeing ads for it everyplace that Overstock runs ads. In this case, it makes sense: I was about to make something of an impulse buy, and after seeing the ad repeatedly, I may be induced to do go through with it later.

But in other cases, it's annoying as hell and makes no sense at all. I'm in the middle of renovating my house, and was recently looking at ceiling fans and vessel sinks online. Now I can't click on a site without seeing ads for sinks and fans, despite the fact that I made my selection and purchased them weeks ago.

Re:It seems a bit wrong-headed (1)

Moryath (553296) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414532)

That still doesn't explain why those fucking X10 Camera pop-up ads were stalking me seemingly EVERYWHERE.

Or why now it's those fucking Netflix popunders. I swear to god, if I ever meet someone from Netflix's marketing department, they better have a good explanation...

Re:It seems a bit wrong-headed (4, Insightful)

sammy baby (14909) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414632)

Oh man, the "Tiny wireless camera!!!" ads? I remember them from the late 90s. I think that they were just flat out ubiquitous, as opposed to following specific people around.

The worst part of those ads was the pervyness. The ads would blare "for security," but they all ran with pictures of half-dressed women.

Re:It seems a bit wrong-headed (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414776)

That's called "untargetted shotgun advertising".

Re:It seems a bit wrong-headed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33414558)

But in other cases, it's annoying as hell and makes no sense at all. I'm in the middle of renovating my house, and was recently looking at ceiling fans and vessel sinks online. Now I can't click on a site without seeing ads for sinks and fans, despite the fact that I made my selection and purchased them weeks ago.

Not sure "can't" is the appropriate word; you could clear your cookies.

Re:It seems a bit wrong-headed (3, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414676)

Or use an ad blocker. Or do both.

Re:It seems a bit wrong-headed (3, Interesting)

Viperpete (1261530) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414646)

The circumstances in which I have been annoyed have been when I made online purchases for my 4 and 10 year old nieces and now constantly see ads for that demographic which as a 36 year old male with no children, I find tiresome. Also, every time one of my home user IT customers needs a new piece of equipment and I do the research for them forever after I see ads for stuff I already have or never want.

Since I do much more research and pricing of stuff for other people, I always end up seeing ads for demographics that I am not a part of. I pretty much constantly use Adblock and CookieSafe nowadays.

Re:It seems a bit wrong-headed (4, Interesting)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414760)

I find it a bit amusing. A couple months ago I ordered a pizza online from Pizza Shack. For the next few weeks I kept seeing adverts for Pizza Shack everywhere, including my own GoogleAd-using site.* Last month I had a coupon for Papa Fred's so I ordered one from them. The pizza adverts suddenly changed to Papa Fred's. This weekend I looked up the phone number of my local MahJong franchise (which doesn't take online orders). Guess whose banner advert I'm seeing in the window next to this one....

*This is a little frustrating because I'd rather see the adverts that my visitors are seeing, to give me a sense of their experience on the site... I know, I know... that's missing the point of targeted advertising.

Re:It seems a bit wrong-headed (1)

Eyeballs (64172) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414850)

But in other cases, it's annoying as hell and makes no sense at all. I'm in the middle of renovating my house, and was recently looking at ceiling fans and vessel sinks online. Now I can't click on a site without seeing ads for sinks and fans, despite the fact that I made my selection and purchased them weeks ago.

For me, at this very moment Google does this to me. I'm using Kaspersky, and recently went to their site to download the 2011 version since I had a current license for it. Now, in a lot of places I go to, I see an ad for Kaspersky in a 'Ads by Google' box.

So, this is not new, and the only reason people are noticing it is that you are being served up the exact same ad on different websites, for a website you only visited once.

Re:It seems a bit wrong-headed (1, Interesting)

zarzu (1581721) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414424)

so whenever you buy something it is right after the first time you looked at it? i don't know how you shop but that's not how it works for me. if i see something i like i might bookmark it and check it out again a week after to see if i was just weird that day or if i really want it. maybe i don't feel like i have the money right now and wait another month until i finally buy it. other times i might see something but think it's not quite right and not even bookmark it. if i now stumble upon it via an ad (not gonna happen since they're all blocked) i might reconsider my earlier decision or at least take another look at the site, because who knows.

neither a product nor an ad has to convince you in the first look. if it does it's amazing marketing, but people don't buy many things after a single look.

Re:It seems a bit wrong-headed (5, Funny)

dyingtolive (1393037) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414546)

Genuine question: Do you ever get ads for a new shift key? Yours seems broken. :)

Re:It seems a bit wrong-headed (1)

stonewallred (1465497) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414804)

Eh, gotta agree. I tend to look at purchases over a base sum several times, before deciding to purchase. I needed a new monitor a few years ago and looked for one for about 4 months, before I went to big box electronic store and checked out some in person. Settled on one, but walked around store to make sure and found 42 inch hi-def LCD TV, floor sample, with all the inputs for 25 bucks cheaper than the 24 inch monitor. Bought it instead. Taking time to decide pays off sometimes.

Re:It seems a bit wrong-headed (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414534)

I had something similar happen recently. I as looking at buying a sailboat, but I'd need a trailer hitch to haul it to and from the lake (I live inland), so of course I googled "trailer hitch" to compare the local hitch installer vs a bolt on model over the internet. This was in June. I am still getting google ads for "ehitch.com" about trailer hitches every time I visit wunderground.

Re:It seems a bit wrong-headed (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414622)

Heh, I just searched for "trailer hitch" on google, even clicked on the sponsored link (went to alibaba). So far I still get ads for hotels from agoda.com on wunderground. I had to use google chrome to see the ads. Normally I use firefox + adblock plus and don't see any ads.

Not tempted to turn on ads all the time ;).

Re:It seems a bit wrong-headed (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33414624)

It's worse than that. I have been getting google ads in my POSTS to various forums, including slashdot!

Slightly off-topic, but have you considered getting a trailer hitch at ehitch.com? I understand you can get a great deal there.

Re:It seems a bit wrong-headed (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414636)

No, more like:

"So...You look at something, decide you *don't* want to buy it... and then they continue to show you different messages that might be more relevant to your purchasing needs in case you change your mind."

Look, this isn't a magic bullet. It can't make you magically change your mind if you are determined not to buy. But looking at this statistically, retargeting has a MAJOR impact on conversion rates that cannot be ignored by any online marketer. For a large percentage of people--this works.

Don't like it? Use AdBlock or dump your cookies since that is how they retarget to you.

Its not creepy, it annoying! (1)

Perl-Pusher (555592) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414738)

I get ads for stuff I already bought. And when I notice the price is lower, that makes it worse. I get ads for stuff I have no intention of buying. Just by doing a search of several items to do some comparison shopping, for weeks I get ads of the stuff I rated crap! Its like a big sign saying "Hey we're tracking your every move. !" Makes me want to search for guns, ammo and body bags! When the FBI & ATF show up I'll know Big Brother has officially arrived.

Re:It seems a bit wrong-headed (2)

stonewallred (1465497) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414748)

How bout setting your browser to clear cookies, run ABP and no script, and never see any ads? Works fine for me.

creepy. but (5, Insightful)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414310)

I agree it's creepy, but Opponents are clamoring for government regulation to protect the consumer bothers me a bit. Really, I'm not at all sure that the government should be regulating in the internet at this picky level of detail.

Re:creepy. but (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33414384)

I'm not at all sure that the government should be regulating in the internet at this picky level of detail.

Consumers have no technical way to protect themselves. Block cookies and there are a thousand other ways to track them (web bugs, LSO cookies, etc. etc.). Block those and the vendors will find another solution.

The only solution is legal: Give consumers legal authority to stop vendors from tracking them, and penalties if that's violated.

We've all been trained to memorize the meme that government regulation is bad. Fine if you want to believe it, and sometimes the meme is true, but sometimes, bad or not, the regulation is worse than the alternative.

Re:creepy. but (1)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414412)

Consumers have no technical way to protect themselves.

Adblock/host-file

sure that doesnt eliminate the tracking, but at the very least you arent haunted by that sextoy you considered buying for the next few weeks..

Re:creepy. but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33414438)

Sure it does, you use a blocklist that blocks tracking cookies.

Re:creepy. but (1)

mldi (1598123) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414512)

I'm not at all sure that the government should be regulating in the internet at this picky level of detail.

Consumers have no technical way to protect themselves. Block cookies and there are a thousand other ways to track them (web bugs, LSO cookies, etc. etc.). Block those and the vendors will find another solution.

The only solution is legal: Give consumers legal authority to stop vendors from tracking them, and penalties if that's violated.

We've all been trained to memorize the meme that government regulation is bad. Fine if you want to believe it, and sometimes the meme is true, but sometimes, bad or not, the regulation is worse than the alternative.

Two words: ad blockers.

Re:creepy. but (1)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414706)

Two words: ad blockers.

Seriously. The comments on this article were really confusing to me. Ads? Popups? Are people still living in the 90's? Adblock Plus has been out since 2006; I don't even know when the original Adblock was made. I hadn't noticed any of the problems in the article because I never see any ads..

Re:creepy. but (1)

hsmith (818216) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414574)

Yes they do, there are a plethora of things you can do to protect yourself. Lets stop dumbing everything down because grandpa doesn't know how to use his PC.

Re:creepy. but (4, Insightful)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414494)

I'm not at all sure that the government should be regulating in the internet at this picky level of detail.

I think people should not be haunted with ads by any technique. So this is not nitpicking, it is just regulation of how much privacy invading is allowed. And in my opinion this kind of automated man-hunt should be forbidden.

Re:creepy. but (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414638)

> I think people should not be haunted with ads by any technique.

No one has to see any ads at all.

Alternatives? (1)

Comboman (895500) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414784)

I think people should not be haunted with ads by any technique. So this is not nitpicking, it is just regulation of how much privacy invading is allowed. And in my opinion this kind of automated man-hunt should be forbidden.

But the alternative is being "haunted" with ads that are completely unrelated to anything you are interested in. Relevancy actually turns ads from an annoyance to being potentially useful.

If you are going to be dumb, you will be tracked (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33414318)

Easy solution, use Cookie Monster to keep those pesky cookies cleaned out! http://www.ampsoft.net/utilities/CookieMonster.php

And Hell no we don't need the Government to do anything. People are so helpless these days.

Re:If you are going to be dumb, you will be tracke (1)

mlts (1038732) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414504)

Cookie Monster is nice, but any ad place worth a clue is using Flash Shared Objects and not browser cookies, and Cookie Monster does nothing to remedy that.

Best way to fix? The BetterPrivacy add-on in Firefox. Set it to run every 2-3 minutes to clean out the Flash crap, and go from there. However, this is just playing cat and mouse, because other add-ons tend to save state too.

Ultimately, this is where the government will have to get involved. Our only other option is everyone running their Web browser in a virtual machine that rolls back all changes when closed. I'm sure more add-ons will be needed to browse content in the future, and each of those add-ons will have the ability to allow persistent storage of data.

Re:If you are going to be dumb, you will be tracke (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414814)

There's no need for the web browser to run in a VM; it suffices if the plugins do. Then all file accesses of the plugins would go through the browser interfaces, and therefore the browser would be able to centrally control permissions.

Re:If you are going to be dumb, you will be tracke (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33414808)

COOKIES! NOM NOM NOM!

*sigh* I miss the old Cookie Monster, who used to... I dunno... actually EAT COOKIES.

Adblock (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33414322)

If you just use adblock this isn't a problem ...

Re:Adblock (0, Flamebait)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414726)

Everyone starts using adblock at the same time. Then, you see a crash of the economy of the free internet. Good plan.

Silly (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414324)

If I just bought something, why would they think I'm going to buy it again? If it was a perishable product or one that is periodically used up, that's understandable, but good shoes generally last at least a year or so.

Re:Silly (1)

Anarki2004 (1652007) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414354)

A year is all you get? I have shoes that have lasted me over five years.

Re:Silly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33414418)

Made in *cough* China *cough*.

Re:Silly (1)

stonewallred (1465497) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414872)

Pair of Sperry topsiders, bought and worn once or twice a week since purchased. Bought at age 20. I am now 41 and wore them yesterday.Keep them clean, keep them polished and oiled occasionally and they last forever it seems. Have a leather Brooks riding jacket that I bought at 17. Still have it too. Little worse for wear as the leather flexes much more than shoes, but still wearable and still fits. As the old saw goes, buy quality and pay more, but it lasts longer and is cheaper over time. Problem is today, how do you find quality?

Re:Silly (4, Insightful)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414434)

If I just bought something, why would they think I'm going to buy it again? If it was a perishable product or one that is periodically used up, that's understandable, but good shoes generally last at least a year or so.

I prefer it, actually, to the approach used by television. There must not be a lot of brand loyalty in feminine hygiene products, but I'm fairly certain that they're wasting their ad dollars trying to woo me.

Ads for things I have bought is one step closer to ads for things I might actually buy, and is a step away from ads that I'd rather not even think about.

Therefore - good thing.

Besides, if you've already been to the site and made your decision, what's the harm, exactly?

Re:Silly (5, Funny)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414772)

Brand loyalty does not really play into feminine hygiene products, because as soon as a woman finds a product she likes, they discontinue it.

You get what you pay for. (0, Flamebait)

retech (1228598) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414346)

That mother deserves a Zappos stalker. When done with a site LOG OUT. Flush cookies and cache (set limits on them). And stop being a sheep. In the end, it's a (relatively) free experience being online. If she's not happy and not responsible with it, go back to VHS tapes, you'll have far few worries.

Re:You get what you pay for. (2, Insightful)

KnownIssues (1612961) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414674)

I'm sure yours is a very popular opinion within this community, but I think it is unrealistic and impractical. It's quite reasonable for an average person to fail to understand the magic that can happen in the Internet. And the Internet certainly doesn't behave in an easily understandable, intuitive manner. We are the literate elite of the modern age and the average person is part of the illiterate, unwashed masses. The average person is no more stupid or incapable of intelligent thought than those unfortunate enough to be in the lower class in the middle ages.

Why berate them for failing to understand the subtleties of cookies and caches simply because you happen to have an inhuman interest in the technical depths of your computer? I consider myself to be pretty computer literate and I would be pretty freaked (and disturbed) to find an ad following me around.

I've tried the experiment of flushing cookies and cache and I don't know about you, but I found it to make the browsing experience completely unusable. I went right back to allowing all cookies. There's a reason cookies were developed as a feature of browsing and it's because they offer a useful service. If you disable its use for evil, you also disable its use for good.

Re:You get what you pay for. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33414678)

You may not realize this, but it's not the Zappos cookie. Logging out of Zappos won't help. Setting time limits on your cookies probably won't help.

The cookie that needs to get zapped is the tracking cookie. That tracking cookie is probably refreshed on any page on the internet that is using the same advertising engine. The prime suspect is Google, who is on a *lot* of internet pages. That's the cookie that needs zapping, and it will be replaced in another 2-3 clicks on the web.

Anti-advertising... (4, Interesting)

chiark (36404) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414348)

I booked a ferry crossing from the UK to France through Brittany Ferries' website, and since then I've often been presented with adverts for Brittany Ferries. It is actually putting me off, and has made me install Adblock plus. I don't mind adverts: I know that they're needed to try and monetise this crazy thing. What I do object to is being stalked by an advert for something that I've already bought the product for! So, well done, that's me now out of the internet advertising audience. I suspect I'm not the only one who has been pushed over the edge by this...

Re:Anti-advertising... (4, Insightful)

wagadog (545179) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414410)

and, yet, they've gotten your attention sufficiently to get you to repeat their name! No such thing as bad publicity!

And...dare I say it to a chiark? You are like putty in their hands. ssh into their site next time. :)

Re:Anti-advertising... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33414610)

Name dropping a company that stalks their customers through advertising should count as bad publicity

Re:Anti-advertising... (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414724)

Name dropping a company that stalks their customers through advertising should count as bad publicity.

There's an old adage that goes something like this:

"Any publicity is good publicity."

However, I'm pretty sure said adage is wrong.

Re:Anti-advertising... (2, Interesting)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414548)

Interesting to see how intrusive advertisements actually accomplish the exact opposite: a certain hatred against the company behind it...

I have similar experiences - some types of advertisement are just too annoying, and I will make an effort never to buy anything from that company ever again. (And I have a longer memory than the internet itself).

It all makes me wonder what kind of people can be digitally bullied into buying something online.

Re:Anti-advertising... (4, Informative)

dyingtolive (1393037) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414714)

Frankly, advertisers don't care. They've gotten reaction out of you such that you remember the names of those companies, and will for the rest of your life. It doesn't matter if you're swearing off their products, so long as you can't forget their brand. This is the ape-shit bananas mentality that goes into advertisement. That's why you don't see effective advertising, but just "fire and forget" advertising that focuses on getting the name out there as much as possible.

Source: Marketing Ex-girlfriend.

Re:Anti-advertising... (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414664)

Let's change the scenario a bit. What if you regularly used that ferry and the retargeting ad you were shown was for a monthly pass discount or something. Would that possibly be of value then?

Don't cast it off as bad just because its not relevant to you in that particular instance. Its just a tool and only as good or bad as the implementation and in this instance the advertiser needs to change things significantly.

Re:Anti-advertising... (1)

slayer_ix (927649) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414728)

What difference does it make in regard to what they advertise to you? Ads are annoying be they promoting bicycles ,ferry rides or sun glasses.

Re:Anti-advertising... (1)

Arthur Grumbine (1086397) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414864)

I booked a ferry crossing from the UK to France through Brittany Ferries' website, and since then I've often been presented with adverts for Brittany Ferries

Just wait until they re-sell your purchasing preferences data, and you start getting stalked by "Britain Fairies - Satisfying All Your Pooftah Needs" adverts...

Yes. (4, Interesting)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414356)

The primary use (for the user) of cookies are session cookies. If it wasn't for session cookies, I would just disable them. Maybe you could add a "whitelist this site for cookies y/n?" query right after "do you want to save the password for this site"?

Re:Yes. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33414416)

Yeah, so only allow session cookies. In firefox you simply set it to delete all cookies when you close firefox.

If you want to save passwords, use something like sxsipper.

Re:Yes. (1)

lowlymarine (1172723) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414432)

Firefox has a "Preserve favorites data" option in its Ctrl+Shift+Del dialog. Sadly, it doesn't seem to work all that well, routinely deleting cookies for favorites anyways.

Re:Yes. (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414566)

The advertisements are a recent development - if it becomes more common, the cure will also become more reliable.

The technological cure against stupid ads is bettre than a new law.

Re:Yes. (1)

cygnwolf (601176) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414454)

Firefox has an option to keep cookies 'until I close Firefox', which would neatly allow for session cookies but put a nice crimp on tracking cookies.

Re:Yes. (2, Informative)

wannabgeek (323414) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414734)

There is an addon for Firefox CookieMonster [mozilla.org] which does exactly that.

Re:Yes. (1)

anti-pop-frustration (814358) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414800)

Maybe you could add a "whitelist this site for cookies y/n?" query right after "do you want to save the password for this site"?

CookieCuller [mozilla.org] for Firefox does exactly that. You can white-list cookies for sites you trust and the rest of them are flushed every time you close your browser.

"looking at" -- if only (1)

smchris (464899) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414436)

Yes, some sites near and dear and it's really annoying when it's the stuff I BOUGHT. Because it's stupid.

Universal Studios (1)

Luyseyal (3154) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414444)

Yeah, I'm more than a little tired of seeing Universal Studios ads since we already went on vacation and I'm not going to buy any more tickets anytime soon.

-l

Not that scary (5, Interesting)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414460)

Disclaimer: I manage paid search campaigns for a living. This is really not that big a deal. At its basest level this checks whether you visited a given page (usually a conversion event) and shows you an ad based on that. Reality is people like them because they boost conversion rates majorly. And every provider just about uses them, including Google. Don't like? Adblock ftw.

Re: Not that scary (3, Informative)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414562)

And just to add (since I typed that last bit from my phone on the train)...

This has been around for a while. It is picking up steam now of course because people are getting more advanced in their advertising. But at the end of the day this is what a lot of people on /. have asked for in the past...less irrelevant ads that bug the crap out of them. Well, you got your wish. These are targeted based on your actions and thus will be of more interest to you. The people who decide they don't want ads AT ALL have likely already blocked them in some manner, and thus should not be weighing in on this discussion to just gripe about something that no longer applies to them.

Also, for all you people who love receiving Amazon's emails with suggested products for you to buy--guess what? This is the display advertising equivalent. And I can't stress enough how easy this is to foil. Don't like? Block ads, or just wipe cookies when your browser closes as most of these systems are cookie-based in their tracking and the ones that use Flash zombie cookies are getting sued to hell in a handbasket now.

Re: Not that scary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33414604)

how does flushing cookies in my browser keep amazon from spamming me daily cause I once bought a spatula?

Re: Not that scary (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414702)

"how does flushing cookies in my browser keep amazon from spamming me daily cause I once bought a spatula?"

Retargeting in the case of this article is not the same as what Amazon does. I was simply using Amazon as a comparison in marketing strategy with how they remarket to their customers. In terms of display ad retargeting though, flushing cookies is one of several solutions.

Re: Not that scary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33414802)

So amazon being an obnoxious dick cluttering up my email is just as acceptable at the end of the day as someone "stalking" me around on the internet

got it, thanks

its already pathetic enough I have to run 3rd party applications from being overran by this crap

Re: Not that scary (4, Interesting)

cain (14472) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414580)

people like them because they boost conversion rates majorly...

*People* don't like them - advertisers and marketing scum like them.

Conversion Rates [wikipedia.org] : "In internet marketing, conversion rate is the ratio of visitors who convert casual content views or website visits into desired actions based on subtle or direct requests from marketers, advertisers, and content creators. ..."

Blech. I am not a number! I am a free man! Adblock FTW, indeed.

Re: Not that scary (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414766)

Wow, marketing scum? You don't have a bone to pick or anything...

Not all marketers are deceptive, unethical people, just like you can't generalize any profession.

And you believe everything you read on wikipedia? That definition is flat out wrong if you ask any marketer. A conversion in its basest definition is a desired event occurring. Conversion rate is simply the number of views of the event it takes to get someone to complete it. Period. Whether the advertiser does it in a creepy/stalking manner or a very classy way is on the advertiser, not the technology. Really--you'd think people on /. would understand that a tool is not good or evil, it is how it is used.

Oh, and the fact that they improve conversion rates significantly shows that people do like them--just not everybody.

Re: Not that scary (3, Insightful)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414878)

I hate the very concept of this phrase (never heard 'CR' used before and I feel that much more dirty for knowing what it means, now).

there really are 2 kinds of people in the world. those that add value to the world via their creativity and talents; and then all the rest, comprised mainly of salesman, marketeers and politicians.

yes, there is an inherent disconnect between those 2 groups.

Re: Not that scary (2, Insightful)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414588)

Reality is people like them because they boost conversion rates majorly.

'people' like them? No...advertisers and marketers like them. "People" don't care about boosted conversion rates.

Re: Not that scary (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33414690)

As it turns out, boosted conversion rates mean that yes, people do "like" them, because they click on them.

It's frustrating to see people get angered by advertising techniques when the only reason for them (animated ads, retargeted ads, et cetera) is that *they work*. We wouldn't use them if they didn't. The advertisers aren't to blame -- it's the consumer behavior that drives that ad format.

Re: Not that scary (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414840)

some people click on them. usually feeble old grannies, young kids who don't know (yet) any better and imbeciles who will never learn and the odd republican here and there.

great 'audience' you advertisers got there. real cream of the crop of humanity.

anyone with a few wits left has installed all the usual blockers. what you are left with is the dregs. you do realize that, right?

Re: Not that scary (1)

Freddybear (1805256) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414710)

"Boosted conversion rates" means "more sales of the advertised products".
So yes, "people" do like the targeted ads, because they respond favorably to them.

Re: Not that scary (1)

esme (17526) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414606)

This is really not that big a deal.

That's where you're wrong.

I already use adblock, and generally go to great lengths to remove as much advertising from my life as I can. So I'm already lost to you. I've known for years that you've been tracking people, selling the data to everyone, etc.

But this is so obvious that even casual users have noticed. The New York Times is running a big story on it. I really think that once everyone knows how sleazy and invasive the advertisers' practices are, revolt and regulation are much more likely.

Re: Not that scary (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414824)

First off, I don't sell your data to anyone except my Client--who legally has a right to that data once you fill out their form and give it to them. If you aren't providing personally identifiable info, we're not collecting it. We do collect anonymous usage data to better inform our decisions though.

Now, to the meat of your point...you say that even casual users have noticed but that the NYT is running a big story on it. Occam's Razor...which is more likely? That average users wised up and are now revolting against something that has been proven to work because people like more relevant ads (as proven by the increased conversion rates)? Or that the NYT (who either currently or has in the past likely tried retargeting) is putting out a somewhat sensationalist piece with a negative spin on it for an advertising medium that is for the most part killing their business and industry? Yeah--no conflict of interest there.

Re: Not that scary (1)

spacefight (577141) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414650)

This is really not that big a deal.

-- Muhammad_Saeed_al-Sahhaf

Re: Not that scary (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414806)

PEOPLE like them?

which people?

oh you mean your cronies, your web-buddies who do this shit for a living. those 'people'.

guess what: we don't care what your people like. WE don't like your ads (in general) and will block them. always and forever.

Re: Not that scary (2, Insightful)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414860)

I was actually referring to the people that click them and then buy more stuff--but its cute how you speak for everybody in the world, I'm sure they appreciate that.

Look, we wouldn't be using them if they weren't effective, and they wouldn't be effective if everybody hated them with as much baseless passion as you do. So guess who's wrong?

FireFox extenstion Ghostery addresses this (5, Informative)

capedgirardeau (531367) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414500)

I have found using Ghostery added on to FireFox has cut down on a lot of this sort of cross site tracking for me.

http://www.ghostery.com/ [ghostery.com]

LG phones do this (4, Interesting)

Brandee07 (964634) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414524)

I once bought an out-of-contract LG phone, whose screen broke a week after purchase. No, I didn't drop it. Neither AT&T nor LG would repair/replace it, so I went online and searched around and found that this model phone (the Neon) had a notoriously fragile screen, and that no one was able to get repairs for it, so I ended up chucking my useless $80 hunk of plastic in the trash.

After this twenty minutes of googling, I was plagued by LG Neon ads for weeks. Every third or fourth website I visited had an ad trying to sell me the very phone that broke on me. It made me more and more angry every time I saw it. Without the constant reminder of my wasted money, I may have eventually forgotten about it, but now I will never, ever purchase anything by LG again, and I tell people who are looking for a new phone to get something - anything - else.

The marketing tool to end all tools (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33414528)

.. and a much better one at that:

Let people pick specifically what they are interested in seeing adverts for. If you ARE going to see advertising whether you want or not, why not pick what you are interested in? Just don't masquerade it as a "survey", "we would like to get to know our visitors better". People HATE giving personal information of any kind to marketers, so if this was to succeed, the perceived usefulness would need to be big enough to overcome that, and it would need to be centralised. We are talking very clearly explained, one-off Google-scale implementation.

The idea feels offensive, but personally, I would be much happier to see adverts for computer games and gadgets than the present brain-exploding slimming pills adverts. Even if I have no intention of buying them, at least I can think 'oh, that is neat'. People would have no incentive to 'game the system' either.

This would make most forms of monitoring, tracking and gathering of personal information redundant.

Kindercare is stalking me (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414542)

I don't have children. All I tried to do was connect an Ebola outbreak to a daycare facility, and, now I'm being staked by some kid all across the internet.

Opt out... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33414544)

It's easy to opt out from every network offering this sort of service:

http://www.networkadvertising.org/managing/opt_out.asp

(just remember to go there each time you clear your cookies)

Seen this before (1)

brainstem (519778) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414576)

I've seen this before. A bit back, an IT recruiter contacted me about a position available with New Balance's E-Commerce division. I had never been to their site before, so I checked it out. I passed on the job, but ever since then, I see NB Web Express banner ads all over the place, and I don't ever remember seeing them in the past. As far as the cookies themselves go, it doesn't really bother me. If I want to go someplace truly anonymously, I know how to do so, but otherwise I don't really care of someone can see part of my browsing history. I've got a family member who is completely paranoid about the stuff, even though she doesn't even really understand what a cookie actually is (and I've tried explaining it numerous times).

2 comments re times story (1)

cinnamon colbert (732724) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414590)

1) It is quite a long story, for the Times, yet it doesn't mention that you can use things like disable cookies and ad blocker 2) if you have a subscription to the Times (I think it is requried to see the actual story) go on line and make a comment; tell people, specifically where they can go to learn about online privacy (to bad firefox has gotten worse in the privacy gui in every version since 2.0)

Annoying marketing. (4, Insightful)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414594)

What I find exceedingly obnoxious is when I do purchase something and for weeks afterwards I'll get promotions for similar things, if not the same exact altogether.

I'm curious to know how effective this sort of thing actually is. All those people in the marketing department and consultants will desperately insist it works. But given my own experiences and observations it just creates information overload and the vast majority of people end up ignoring most of what they say. Unfortunately, the very people who do marketing are the ones also supplying the statistics on whether it has been effective or not. They're not going to furnish information that renders them inessential. So they only disclose what seems to work and make some rather absurd suppositions.

There's no such thing as too much advertising to these guys. Expect things to get even more invasive.

Re:Annoying marketing. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33414882)

Advertising isn't done by a bunch of people who guess at what works -- we have hard numbers that show that in the short term, this type of advertisement is incredibly effective. We don't make the numbers up, either (in fact, since it's our customers that bring the data on how many people click through the ads/buy the product/et cetera, we wouldn't even have the opportunity to do so).

Now, I wouldn't be at all surprised if there are long-term consequences that we don't really understand, but... that's not what sells ads. If we can figure out a way to quantify brand effects like that, we can model ads around it. But as it is, our customers want to see rapid results, and this is an easy way to deliver them.

It's important to realize that these types of advertisement are the free market at work. An open environment tends toward the most cost-effective, short-term-gain structure, and these ads are an example of that. No amount of moralizing will change that. If you want change, you need to regulate the market.

I've noticed this. (3, Funny)

shadowrat (1069614) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414616)

I've noticed that almost everywhere i keep seeing ads for McDonald's. They are on websites that i go to. They are on tv. They are on the radio. I think i heard one on Pandora. They are even printed on billboards on the interstate through nebraska when i drive through there. That's pretty creepy that they KNOW i'm coming through nebraska and manage to print a billboard just for me.

What i don't get is i don't even like McDonald's. I hardly ever go there, yet they keep showing me all these ads. weird.

solution (2, Interesting)

jridley (9305) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414626)

Firefox with noscript and CsFire, and don't save cookies.

When even this fails, I contemplate running Portable Firefox and having it reload from a scratch image every time I start it up.

Re:solution (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414750)

> When even this fails... ...try Privoxy.

So Appallingly Creepy (3, Informative)

beadfulthings (975812) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414716)

I don't know of any online retailers where you can shop without getting a cookie or two to handle your shopping cart and sundries--what they like to call your "overall shopping experience." I was appalled when Overstock.com began following me--seemingly everywhere. They showed up at local and national news sites, a couple of humor sites--enough to make me feel as though I was being tailed in some kind of poorly done spy movie. And they always showed particular, specific items I'd been looking at. Adblock didn't seem to make a difference. I was ticked enough that when they sent me a "survey," I told them off. That resulted in two e-mails and a phone call to my husband, whose credit card I used in making the small purchase I did make. The gist of the communications was that they really wanted me to think this was "normal" and that "all websites" do it. Cleaning out my cookies helped with the immediate persecution complex, and installing and browsing with Ghostery (ghostery.com) in tandem with Adblock in my Firefox seems to have eliminated the problem for any other sites that are doing it. The solution, of course, is just not to shop at places that offend you and to tell them why you're taking your business elsewhere.

goosebumps (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414722)

From the article:

But it's a little creepy, especially if you don't know what's going on.'

I think it's even creepier when you do know what's "going on".

Technically (1)

Urd (198177) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414756)

Sometimes but not usually it's the retailer who initiates the stalking.

If you look closely, you'll find most big online advertising companies are using a few, but very similar principles. Google, Yahoo: it's how they make money, however usually through a daughter company to hide the link. It's the traditional approach to targeted advertising.

What happens is that an ad which is delivered to your computer at a product or search page will have a javascript or an image embedded of 0x0 pixels by the ad server. They call these beacon pixels and they allow ads from the ad server to track you for a certain interest (i.e. beacon). Other times the retailer will embed beacon pixels on their product pages directly, but that is not a requirement.

It becomes evil when sites like Facebook get involved, here the idea is they can read your beacons and spread them to your friends on the basis that they might want to buy the product they saw you buy. Not to mention the opportunity to enrich the beacons with target demographics like sex, age, location, etc...

This type of advertising is done on the principle that people who buy something will often buy similar things, accessories, or at the least that their friends will.

It is of course very backwards but just like spam, those few people who actually buy after being prompted with these ads make it all worth while. (And that doesn't mean click on the link but buy something from that site/brand within a few days or weeks.)

Fortunately, AdBlock and similar options do a very good job of blocking that content. Unfortunately some ad revenue based companies have become smart enough to break their usability if the code sent by the ad tracking is missing. So sometimes you will need a "GreaseMonkey" to get around that but it can be done.

Stop looking (3, Insightful)

smittyman (466522) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414764)

Since Firefox and Adblock (/ghostery) has been around i wonder why people still spent all the energy on adds. As long as you look, click, discuss, hate, love them they have the desired effect and the money flows. Just /ignore / block as Spam is here to stay.

If a site is too intrusive there are most likely 10-100 alternatives to visit. Rather spend my time on that.

Enjoy this not so intrusive /. website where we can even turn the spam off (hear hear! :)

Now you're a helpless victim? Get over yourself. (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414796)

If you're that much of an emotional cripple that you think an advertisement relevant to your interests is so horrible, you probably have no business on this site, what with its strong slant toward freedom, libertarianism and repulsion toward govt. regulation.

Where are the Patent Trolls when you need them? (1)

dpilot (134227) | more than 3 years ago | (#33414820)

Surely someone must have patented this "business method" or the software used to enable it. Can't the Trolls do something "right" for a change, and come out with the lawsuits to stop this silly practice?

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