Internet Advertising – Are You Being Followed?

Recently, I found out via Facebook that one of my friends was engaged. Her ring was beautiful, and she shared that the ring was “conflict free and eco-friendly.” I was fascinated with this concept so I “Googled” the company her ring was purchased from – Brilliant Earth. I read all about its mining process and how it certifies its jewelry as conflict free. While I was fascinated by this process, I became even more fascinated with what happened next. I started noticing Brilliant Earth ads were following me from website to website, often featuring the rings I had looked at while visiting their site. It didn’t matter if I was on MSNBC, ESPN or checking my Yahoo mail. There were Brilliant Earth ads everywhere I looked.

I did some research and discovered that Brilliant Earth was tracking me. It had collected data from my computer while I was on their website about my browsing habits, and if I had made a purchase from them converting to my shopping habits. This is a process called Ad Tracking.

Brilliant Earth is not the only company participating in ad tracking. I have been followed by shoes from Zappos and countless other advertisements from websites I have visited.

The Federal Trade Commission recently proposed “Do Not Track” for internet advertising. This would allow people to choose whether they want internet companies to collect information on their browsing habits, as well as information for other marketing purposes. As a consumer, it feels very big brother to see a pair of shoes I looked at two days ago staring at me while I read today’s headlines. I am truly torn about internet advertisers tracking my shopping and browsing habits. As an advertising professional, I think Ad Tracking is a wonderful thing. The advertiser can learn so much about the shopper, their habits and help them find products that fit their needs.

Internet Advertising is one of the fastest growing advertising opportunities today and technology is changing rapidly. I will be curious to see if ad tracking is something that stays or goes as time moves on. For now, I am heading to Zappos so that cute pair of Cole Haan shoes can follow me around for a few weeks.

To learn more about the FTC’s proposal please visit Ad Age.

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