It is the digital marketing system the tries to sell you what you have already bought.
It is the software that emails you when you changed your mind about buying something - constantly.
It is the digital equivalent of chasing you down the street saying "you forgot to buy me!"
Advertising online has jumped in leaps and bounds over the last few years. The advanced systems not only deliver you adverts based on what site you are on, but on where you have been and what you have bought.
The advertising industry likes to tell itself that this is beneficial to the consumer as we are only seeing that ads we want to see.
I bought a camera a few weeks ago and since then I have been plagued with adverts for the exact camera I have just bought. I DON'T WANT A SECOND ONE!
I looked at a site about a make of car and now I am being digitally followed by ads for that car. Don't they get it? I didn't buy the car because I didn't like it! Following me around has not only put me off the car, but I now think the sales company is a stalking creep, I am NEVER going to buy from them.
But the system goes further. For the advertiser there is Programmatic Advertising. This is automated media buying where you specify your target audience, their behavior, sex, age, ethnicity, buying habits, and you buy media on all kinds of platforms automatically with little human intervention.
So what is the result of this?
Well, I was trying to read an article on the Huffington Post the other day and the page was so full of slow loading ads that it became impossible. Each time an ad loaded the page shifted down so I lost my place, one of the ads had audio, so I had to find where the hell on the page it was and turn it off, and eventually, the entire thing became so stuffed with crap I simply did not want to see that my browser froze.
Serve me right, I had forgotten to install Ad Block. (I recommend you do so, by the way).
So, am I against advertising? Of course not. Most commercial sites on the web rely on it to pay for their servers, their staff and so on. The internet, by design, has no income base, so you either get people to pay at the door, sell them something or get them to watch adverts.
But with targeting based on behavior and history, you are not helping the consumer, you are reducing their choice. People who buy cameras also buy lenses. That makes sense. But they also buy balloons, sugar, roller skates and cottonbuds. If you assume they only buy photography equipment, then you have just lost out on 99% of their life.
And you have pissed them off to.
If targetted advertising worked by eliminating what they definitely do not buy, it would make a vague sense, but it doesn't, so makes no sense at all.
When the internet was created as a publicly accessible system, the idealistic geeks declared that it would be completely free of censorship, laws, morals, big business and government. Sounds very laudable, but it soon just got taken over by porn and big business because they were the only ones actually feeding this beast with what it needed to survive - cash.
Advertising is necessary, but there is now so much of it that many more people are routinely installing browser addons that simply remove the ads. Most people still are not, probably because they don't realize such a thing exists. But one day they will and when that happens what will happen to the advertising industry that is putting so much faith into online advertising?
Update: Just went and visited the Huff with ad block switched on - it blocked 21 adverts....