Customizing Your Ad Environment

Or how to avoid being followed around the internet by creepy retargeting ads while still seeing ads for things you like. (Or alternatives to ad blockers.) 

We all hate those annoying ads that take over the screen, forcing you to click your way out of them. Before you know it you’re headed to some site you never wanted to go to, trying to click your way back to where you started from. As a marketer, I especially hate these types of ads because they make my job harder. I know they wind up generating amazing click-through-rates, but they often do more harm than good when it comes to brand awareness.

On the other hand, when I encounter good display ads, I’m excited! When I see a product I’ve been shopping around for pop up in my news feed, I’m generally impressed by the remarketing effort.

Still, more than once, I’ve heard friends describe this as “creepy.” I suppose the first few times it happened it felt like there were magical trolls following my every online move, but if you are a digital advertiser you know that remarketing is not voodoo. It’s actually a really smart way to get back in front of someone who has shown interest in your brand or product. When done wrong, it feels creepy. When done right, it’s convenient and helpful, and you’re clicking that ad before you even realize you’ve been advertised to.

Either way, you, the consumer, have a lot more control over the types of ads you see than you might realize. By consciously clicking and avoiding certain ads, you can actually customize your online ad environment (sort of). If you consistently click on the best ads you come across (while avoiding the annoying ads as much as possible), you will train ad servers to continue to serve you those types of ads. Consequently, you’ll see fewer of those ads that you hate.

For example, if I go to read an article, and I’m forced to click through a slideshow with one million different arrows to choose from and a minefield of terrible display ads, I immediately EXIT THAT PAGE. I don’t care how much I want to see “The Top 11 Most Terrifying Celebrity Makeovers” or “The 9 Times Kate Middleton Dressed Like A Tramp,” it’s not worth it. Not only will I end up down a rabbit-hole of never ending ads and pop-ups, I’ll also train ad servers to serve me more of these terrible ads!

So, next time you see a particularly compelling ad or product that seems “totally you,” do us all a favor and click on it! But avoid the spammy stuff like the plague. If we all reward the good advertising, the digital world will become a less creepy, less spammy, and more enjoyable place.