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Driving Forward > Digital Marketing Blog

The Creepiest Ad I’ve Seen Yet

Our lives and the things around us are becoming more personalized. In medicine, personalized therapy based on specific genetic mutations can help boost drug efficacy and improve patient outcomes. In education, personalized learning tailored to the wants and needs of individuals is considered by some to be the next big thing in education. And in advertising, personalized ad content driven by your perceived interests is becoming more prevalent daily.

But can personalized advertising become too creepy? Some consumers already consider remarketing creepy. As an advertiser who employs it daily, I believe its usefulness far out-weighs the “creepy” factor. But a number of other methods of highly-targeted advertising are upon us, and they’ll only keep coming. However, this one, served to me last night via Facebook’s mobile app, really caught me by surprise:

(Hint: my last name is Shapiro)

Shapiro Ad in Facebook

My gut reaction: creepy. Why? Maybe because I (as a paid search specialist but not a social media guru) am not familiar with the exact inner-workings of Facebook’s Ads Manager. But really, I think it’s more because of the use of personally identifiable information (PII). Digging in a bit further, it appears as though this instance is not a breach of PII laws, as the ad only uses my (fairly common) last name. But nonetheless, how much personalization is too much? Being served ads for websites I’ve recently visited is one thing, but having my last name explicitly used in an ad when I have had no previous interaction with the advertiser is a different story.

At our weekly agency meeting, we at Overdrive discussed what we believe will be the hottest trends in 2014. The winner: highly-targeted personalized advertising. No doubt, personalization will play a huge role in advertising moving forward, but I think something to keep a close eye on is when does the “creepy” factor raise that red flag and present more of a turn-off than a valuable marketing strategy?


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