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Confused Ads

Apparently, I am a 25 year old female from New York, who owns a cat.

Confused ads by Tobias Mathes, All rights reserved.


After all the recent revelations about how much behavioural data some companies are collecting about individuals in general, one would think that advertising algorithms should know us better then we know ourselves.

Since a while now, I am using a web browser without an AdBlocker on some occasions and I have to tell you, advertising algorithms don't know anything about me.

After some consumer outcries and regulation efforts from some goverment entities, all advertising companies are obliged (or at least agreed) to provide the users with an opt-out page for personalised advertisments. In some cases, the user is even allowed to specify which categories of advertisment one wants to see more often. Unfortunately there is no possibility to exclude categories you don't want to see.

By example, in my case, I don't want to see any advertisements about alocholic beverages. Since I am male, 35 and living in Germany, the advertisement algorithm knows people of this group are a definite target group for alcoholic beverages and so I get hammered with advertisement campaigns for beer and other stuff. In my opinion, advertising for alcoholic beverages should be banned exactly like advertisements for tobacco products. Both product categories are extremly harmful and highly addictive for their users and have a proven negative impact on their users health.

But enough bitching, the really problematic issue is that even if you haven't opted out personalised ads, you will be constantly presented with ads about topics you just recently researched about or pages you just visited. I don't really get the logic of this, or maybe my usage of the internet is much more organised then that of everbody else. If I look up a product on the internet, then I am about to buy it. So presenting me advertisements about exactly the product I just bought is kinda counter-productive, repetitive and veeeery annoying.

Lately I got some confusing advertising sessions, especially on YouTube. Apparently the advertising algorithm sometimes thinks I am a female, 25-ish years old, who owns cats (or maybe a dog). Either I have a certain behavioural pattern which confuses the algorithm severly or a woman is secretly sharing my apartment with me.

From the looks of it, you might suspect that they are just bad at creating a proper customer profile out of the data they have about you. But if you look at it from another direction, it could seem that they are representing themselves as highly inaccurate and reguarly targeting you with the wrong ads, while eventually you get 'lucky' and get ads which are really targeting you.

Several years ago, a conspiracy theory made the rounds where people suspected vendors who produce antivirus software to create their own viruses just to keep the market populated and to create an environment where they are still needed. If we apply this thought to advertising platforms, then the inaccurate targeting of customers actually makes much more sense. Because producing companies would have to launch massive advertising campaigns, just to eventually hit their target group. Which in return means a higher profit for the advertising platforms. The current online advertising market is mostly headed up by Google and then followed by some other players, which are usually very strong in a certain market niche or region.

Like in many other fields, Google also dominates the advertising market, especially after they acquired DoubleClick several years ago. If you want to launch a major advertising campaign in the current market climate, you will be hardly able to do this without the support of Google.

With all it's dominance in so much fields, one would think that Google could facilitate all that knowledge about their users to create better advertising campaigns for their 'customers' or just a naive thought, maybe they just care more about our privacy then we all think. :)

Probably not.