In case you’re not au fait with the term, behavioural targeting is when brands use your online behaviour to show you relevant online ads. In short – visit a website and show interest in its products and you might be shown an ad for them, or several dozen, in the near future.
Some people find this disturbing, but I mostly think it’s fine (though I don’t love the Zoopla ads that manage to show me flats to rent on my actual street. That’s a bit much.)
Currently, I am being behaviourally targeted by Clarks. Last week, after buying an incredibly uncomfortable pair of pumps from Aldo, I realised I would need to buy a pair I could walk in without my feet bleeding. Cue Clarks; trusty Clarks with its lovely shoes you can walk in. So I had a look at some styles online.
Now Clarks is chasing me all over the internet. Here they are at the Guardian.
They’re even there when I pop back to look at my old, spam-filled Hotmail account.
I can’t blame Clarks for this – I’m sure there’s a calculated payback. But it’s not really targeting my behaviour. All it’s doing is taking a record of one site visit, when my actual behaviour is much more complex.
Firstly, I don’t buy shoes online. And secondly, mere metres from the door of our office, is a branch of Clarks. I live near Ealing where there are another two branches.
But where is the ‘I work opposite a Clarks, stop showing me this advert’ button? I feel bad for them, chasing me around the internet and wasting their money.
Last year I was being chased around the internet by Coast, after looking at wedding-type dresses on their site. Again – not something I’d buy online. But there’s no method of making this clear.
Maybe Clarks feels it’s still good value, even if I wouldn’t buy – they know I like their shoes and this way they can show me styles I might like (all the ads were for pumps – no towering heels – so they are targeted).
But currently, the discussions around behavioural targeting are about whether you opt in or opt out. I don’t really want to opt out. I buy online regularly – this could work for some things. Despite the creepiness from Zoopla, I might one day want to move into a new flat. But it could be better.
If Clarks was really targeting my behaviour, then they’d be better off handing out leaflets outside our office. I’d be in there like a shot.