In this episode, the guys chat about the evolution of digital analytics at a basic foundational level and how that has played into the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, and how ads are targeted. Nico talks about why we accept privacy policies with little thought and Chad finds out what Nico’s kids search for on Alexa.

With the advent of ad tracking, marketers have been able to do something they’ve been trying to do for decades: Make sure the ads they create only show for the people they want to see them.

Before describing how ad tracking has changed marketing, it might help to know what ad tracking is. If you’re unfamiliar with a topic, all you really need to know are these two things: Cookies and Ad pixels; Cookies are snippets of code that get passed when you visit a website or move from one site to another that records your behavior. Ad pixels link the behavior that cookies record directly to your social media pages – especially Facebook.

All that means is that ad pixels use cookies to give an extra layer of personalization to social media and different websites. This is beneficial because it allows advertisers to, in a sense, “know you better” from tracking your behavior.

Before cookies and ad pixels, there was virtually no way for marketers to get to “know you better. This also meant that there was no real way for marketers to know whether the ads they bought did their job for decades. With ad tracking, however, not only were advertisers able to tell when someone clicked on the ad…but they were able to show those ads only to the people who were most likely to be interested in them.

Paid search advertising meant ads would only be shown to people who searched for something relevant to the ad and retargeting meant that ads could be shown to people who’d already visited a specific site or searched for something relevant to the ad that was being retargeted.

For advertisers, these changes were a dream. For the consumers, thankfully ad tracking means that you no longer have to see every advertisement that exists. If ads are going to be integrated into everyday life to the point of being unavoidable, they might as well be as enjoyable or at the very least as interesting to each individual as possible.

Once existing ad targeting was combined with deep social profiling on social media that included behaviors and affinities, it resulted in micro-targeting, the level of which we’ve never seen before.  ‘Micro-targeting’ and ‘deep social profiling’ may sound like the kinds of things that someone would say when trying to get you on board with wearing tin foil hats. However, when considered in relation to that more direct line between companies and consumers, those phrases indicate that, because of ad tracking, consumers are less of a part of a general, faceless group of ‘consumers’ and are more of an individual than marketing audiences have been able to be before.

Still, as well-intentioned as ad tracking can be, it may still be unnerving. You may find yourself asking not only “Is my device listening to me?” but also… “Is that legal?

Voice-activated devices like Alexa and Google Home are listening and, if you believe them, they say they’re only listening for when you speak to activate them and that they’re not storing or selling the data from your everyday conversations. 

Regardless of whether you believe that or not, the fact is that Apple, Facebook, and Google, don’t need to listen to your conversations to serve you those ads.  If you knew how much data they have on you, on all of us, you’d understand why “listening” is perhaps the least of our worries. 

It’s important to understand that Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Zoom are not philanthropic; they’re profit-oriented. And data is where the money is. When you start to think about these companies in that light, then you begin to see how data mining and ad tracking is not a feature of these businesses – it IS the business. Understanding that, especially if you’re a marketer, puts you at a considerable advantage in creating effective episodic marketing strategies. 

If you’re a consumer, ad tracking is an advantage because of the way it makes the internet – a big, content-heavy palace – seem a bit smaller and personalized. For a more specific example of how consumers benefit not just from ad tracking but devices with ears that are perpetually on, devices like Alexa can now detect and send an alert to your phone if it hears the sound of smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, or glass breaking. Practical benefits like this combined with the individualization advertisers are able to achieve with micro-targeting and social profiling show how technology and ad tracking are (arguably) bringing consumers and companies closer together. Still, with all of the data recording, storing, and selling and the ambiguity surrounding which companies are recording how much of what, consumers’ concerns about privacy remain.

As you can tell – this is a BIG topic. So we’re going to break this into two episodes. 

In the second part of this episode, we’ll talk about: 

  • Example of privacy violations
  • Where marketers get it wrong when it comes to ad tracking and,
  • After all of that, what’s important at the end of the day

Be sure to join us on part two – here on the Marketing Rescue Podcast!

We talk about:

[06:00] What ad tracking actually is and how is it used
[11:45] The problematic side of ad tracking
[16:20] Audio tracking specifics
[20:10] Is your phone actually listening to you or you just think so
[25:30] Ad tracking importance for marketers

Episode Script Writer: Grace Wall
Research Analyst: Gertruda Gilyte

Enjoy the show!

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