Online ads are becoming increasingly targeted and persistent. Tracking technologies like web cookies are collecting information about our browsing activities from site to site. Marketers and ad tech companies compile that data to target us across our devices. And trackers are now so sophisticated that they can see when you are thinking about buying something but don’t follow through — so they tell the ads to chase you around so you make the purchase.
So, if you are sick of all of the ads, how can you stop them – here are some simple tips.
I’m also posting this because, as a marketer, it can sometimes be good to clear your advertising identity to see what changes it makes to the ads being served to consumers.
But first, how are ads stalking you?
Let’s say you are shopping online for a blender. You load a webpage for a blender from Brand X, then close the browser. The next time you open the browser, ads for the blender are following you from site to site. They’re also showing up in some of your mobile apps like Facebook and Instagram.
When you visited Brand X’s website, the site stored a cookie on your device containing a unique identifier. Brand X hired multiple ad tech companies to do its marketing. The ad tech companies embedded trackers that also loaded on Brand X’s website, and the trackers took a look at your cookie to pinpoint your device.
The trackers can tell if you are interested in buying something. They look for signals — like if you closed the browser after looking at the blender for awhile or left the item in the site’s shopping cart without completing the purchase. From there, the ad tech companies can follow your cookie through trackers and ad networks on various sites and apps to serve you an ad for the blender. The good ones will try to minimize the chances of annoying you by showing you the blender ad only a few times and stopping if they detect that you made the purchase. The bad ones only care to persuade you to buy the blender, so they will relentlessly serve you the ad and not bother to determine whether you already bought it.
Some easy ways to reduce the impacted of stalker ads.
Periodically, clear your cookies. Ad trackers will have a tougher time following you around if you delete your cookies on each of your devices. Apple, Google and Microsoft have published instructions on how to clear data for their browsers Safari, Chrome and Edge. (Click the links for instructions.)
• Reset your advertising ID. In addition to cookies, Android and Apple phones use a so-called advertising ID to help marketers track you. You can reset it whenever you want. On Android devices, you can find the reset button in the ads menu inside the Google settings app, and on iPhones, you can find the reset button inside the settings app in the privacy menu, under advertising.
• Periodically purge your Google ad history. Google offers the My Activity tool, myactivity.google.com, where you can take a deep look at the data that Google has stored about you, including the history of ads you have loaded, and choose the data you want to delete.
More extreme approaches:
There are more extreme methods to take if you want to prevent targeted ads from ever following you around. But this isn’t for the faint of heart: In my experience, you have to take all, not just some, of these steps to get the pesky ads to leave you alone forever.
• Install an ad blocker. For your web browser, you can install add-ons that block ads. My favorite one for computer browsers is uBlock Origin, and on iPhones I recommend 1Blocker X. (For Android users, Google banned many ad blockers from its official Play app store, so the simplest way to block ads is by using a private web browser.)
• On mobile devices, use a private browser. Firefox Focus, DuckDuckGoand Ghostery Privacy Browser are privacy-centric mobile browsers that include built-in ad and tracker blocking. These are handy when you want to do a discreet web search. (They can be impractical to use as everyday browsers because the built-in blockers can break important parts of websites.)
• Install a tracker blocker. Tracker blockers detect snoopy code on websites and prevent them from loading. My favorite tracker blocker for desktop and mobile systems is Disconnect.me.
With thanks to the New York Times