As far back as the 1980s, people complained that there were just too many ads. Researchers estimated that the average consumer could be exposed to about 8,000 ad messages per day. There was real concern that so much exposure could be bad for our mental health. At the very least, the sheer volume of advertising would cause consumers to burn out and simply ignore ads.
So what happened? The internet came along and the number of ad messages increased exponentially. Now, in addition to traditional media, we’re buried under countless digital ads coming at us from all directions.
The latest issue to arise from online advertising is the increased use of “retargeting” or “remarketing.” When you visit an e-commerce site to check out a product, a cookie is placed into your browser linked to that product, say a pair of jeans. When you leave the site to visit another site, an ad for the same jeans appears. Go to another site and the jeans appear there, too.
Targeting is a crucial aspect of effective marketing. After all, why waste money talking to people who have no interest in your product when you can concentrate your messages on high value targets? But with the increased use of “retargeting,” are advertisers taking things too far? Will consumers turn against brands that endlessly stalk them as they surf the web? At what point does persistence morph into annoying, creepy behavior?
Advertisers defend the practice. But just because they can do it, the question is: should they? I believe that consumers are more inclined to buy from companies they like, rather than obnoxious, pushy marketers who will do anything to make a sale. Of course, consumers can do what they have always had the ability to do: ignore them.