Have your kids ever begged for something, or you saw a new product you wanted to try, and the next thing you know, you’re miraculously seeing ads for it everywhere??? It can kinda freak you out and make you wonder if your phone or home is bugged.
You’re just idly scrolling through Facebook or watching YouTube and an ad pops up for something you were literally JUST thinking about and haven’t even mentioned out loud yet.
You know it HAS to be more than coincidence… and you’re right.
“ARE THEY USING
ALIEN TECHNOLOGY TO
CHOOSE MY ADS?!”
Not quite, but the truth is out there. Here, actually. What IS happening is that there ARE super smart and savvy marketers who use technology to connect you with content that is actually relevant. I went behind the scenes with Rinck, a full-service marketing and PR agency that I’ve partnered with over the years, to reveal some of the brilliant little techniques they use to find their clients’ exact audiences.
“Okay so, what’s the secret?”
You might guess they’re somehow reading your mind. No. And yes. The CEO of Rinck Advertising, Peter Rinck, said the reason you’re seeing these ads is simple: it’s called smart targeting.
Today’s targeting includes a massive amount of demographic information; your interests, your behaviors, your online activity…even the behaviors of your family, friends, and other people who are statistically like you.
“Tell me HOW!!!”
Here are some of the clever ways your online activity is being used so that brands can target you and… well, everyone.
Most of us know that the things we do on social media seem to paint a digital statistical picture of us; the videos we watch or like, the posts we react to, the things we share, where we check in, all of it.
A frequent traveler adding locations to their Instagram posts will identify themselves as a strong prospect for hospitality and transportation brands. Someone who pins recipes can get targeted by agencies like Rinck for the food brands they service, with recipes that include their products.
No, I don’t mean putting a ring on it. We’re talking about engaging with ads. If you click on an ad online or in your Facebook feed for a baby carrier and ultimately buy it, you’ve been tagged as an “engaged shopper,” as well as someone who is very likely expecting a child.
Those ads that show up in your inbox looking like an email didn’t get there by accident. Don’t worry, there are no Google employees reading all of your emails. Automated algorithms are used to find keywords in the emails you send, receive, open, and interact with to flag your interests.
You know the saying “you are known by the company you keep”? Smart marketers certainly do.
Yes, it may be true that YOU didn’t know that your kid wanted a specific soccer bag until she got in the car and started complaining about how EVERY OTHER GIRL on the team has one. But somehow when you got home, the first thing you see on your phone is an ad for that exact product. HOW? Because Facebook knows you’re connected with the parents of the girl’s soccer team. You share similar interests and are frequently in the same locations. Those other parents have been busy searching for, posting about and buying this soccer bag – that makes you a prime candidate for that brand.
Maybe you’ve read to this point and you’re thinking: “They’re not gonna get me! I’ll go off the grid!” Sorry. Even without much online activity, sharp marketing teams can still find you based on “look-a-like audiences.” These are databases of people with certain desired activities, like watching a video, clicking ads, or purchasing products. Social media sites then use that information to find other users that “look” or act just like them. This means that you can get targeted for something you have never searched, typed, engaged with or clicked on, but still get served an ad. Gotcha!
Surprisingly, something as completely out of your hands as the weather can label you as part of a desired audience for a brand and its marketing team!
Rinck has used weather-triggered targeting, where pet-parents received messaging about a calming supplement that helps pets deal with thunder-induced anxiety in weather apps and social feeds prior to a storm in their area. They even followed up with search ads targeting those who were Googling “calming pets during thunderstorms.”
“The worst thing we can do for our clients is waste money showing an ad to someone who isn’t interested and who might never be interested,” said Rinck. “We use technology to try to deliver ads right when you need to learn about something. Sometimes, it’s RIGHT when you need to learn. And that does sometimes feel a little weird.”
Now that you know a little more about the magic advertisers are using to find you, how do you feel about it? Is it an invasion of privacy? Or a huge help? Personally, I like that I see ads that are relevant to me based on my interests. In fact, as a parent, it’s kind of nice to be listened to for a change.