Today, (or yesterday seeing as it is in the US), Google announced changes to its ad serving platform which aims to increase relevance of online ads. This beta version is called ‘interest-based’ advertising, and will be used on Google’s partner sites and YouTube.
The ads will associate categories of interests with your browsers, based on the types of pages you generally visit, and serve ads accordingly. E.g. if you are interested in cars, you won’t only get car-based ads when you are on car pages or sites, but you could see car-based ads on any Google Partner site you visit. Google is also proposing that you can tell them what categories you are interested in, so they can tailor the ads to you.
The obvious question people will be asking will be about privacy. Google supposedly allows you to opt out of the advertising cookie (if you don’t ‘already disallow cookies), by going here. They have also designed a plug-in for your browser that maintains your opt-out choice. However this is probably not much use for the majority of users who don’t know what a cookie is or even suspect that Google is tracking them anyway. (They might notice the relevance of ads and get their suspicions up, but still probably wouldn’t know what to do about it).
As an internet advertiser, I understand and appreciate the reasoning behind these changes from the corporate point of view. Companies want to better target their ads, because better targetted ads have a higher conversion rate.
But what are the benefits for the consumer? You get your activity tracked just so that they can try to sell you more appropriate things? Well, like Google says, a lot of the free online content we consume would not be available were it not ad supported, like email, YouTube, search or even Facebook. In that case, if you have to have ads on all these sites, it might be slightly preferable to be served ads that are relevant to you, rather than the generic ones.