How to turn off personalised advertising… almost!

Even though I’m an ex-marketer with more than 20 years’ direct marketing experience, I get totally fed up with ‘personalised’ online advertising.

For a start I’m keen on privacy and security, deeply wary of the Big Brother tactics governments and advertisers are using to delve into our data and explore our lives. But there’s more. Just because I mention a product or service, visit sites selling it or search for it online, it doesn’t mean I want to buy it. There’s more to life than bloody shopping.
Here’s an example. Four weeks ago I wrote 330 one hundred word product descriptions for a perfume website. And I am still getting perfume ads shoved in front of me willy-nilly. Even if I was in the market to buy perfume last month, I’d have bought it by now.
Of course, you can always browse anonymously, which I often do. But on Facebook yesterday, cranking up my security and privacy settings as tight as they’ll go, I discovered a way to prevent more than 90 companies from sending personalised online ads my way. Boy, was I chuffed. If you’d like to do the same, here’s how.

How to turn off personalised advertising

You can access the Your Online Choices service direct here. Or get to it via Facebook like this:

  • Facebook/settings/ads/Website and Mobile App Custom Audiences/Learn more about how other companies do this on and off Facebook and how you can control ads through the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA): Canada, Europe or other locations.

Click on the appropriate country link, then the menu item your ad choices, and the programme runs a command to identify all the behavioural advertising firms currently delivering personalised advertising to you. All you do is click the red button to turn the buggers off, or you can pick and choose if you like, leaving some of them switched on.
There are caveats, of course, which are fair enough. As the site explains:

“When you choose to turn off online behavioural advertising you will still see advertising on the internet. However, it does mean that the advertising you see on websites may not be tailored to your likely interests or preferences on the web browser you are currently using. Using this tool only applies to online behavioural advertising and will not affect other services that use the same technology, called cookies, such as email, shopping basket preferences and photo hosting.”

Can you opt back in?

Yes, and I probably will if personalised advertising improves. But because it’s such a blunt instrument, I want out. It’s intrusive and annoying, bearing no relation to whether or not I want to buy, how, where, from whom and when.

Opting out of targeted Facebook ads

You can also opt out of in-account adverts chosen for you by Facebook, which are based on what you do on the network as well as taking into account your activities on sites and apps outside it. Which, in my view, is none of their business.
I opted out ages ago, infuriated that the ‘personalised’ ads I was presented with were almost all for anti-ageing creams, cosmetic surgery, diets (I am skinny) and similar rubbish. Just because I’m fifty it doesn’t mean I’m desperate to stay looking young. Frankly I couldn’t give a monkeys. I’m happy to age gracefully, which makes the targeters’ blithe assumptions downright offensive. In fact their targeted ads are so far off-piste I’d rather put up with un-targeted ones.
Phew. Rant over. Back to the subject in hand. All you need to do to stop personalised Facebook ads appearing in your account is tick a box. You’ll find it in the same place as the service above in Facebook settings, also under Website and Mobile App Custom Audiences.

A sad indictment of personalised ad technology?

I’m a ex-marketer. I love marketing. I spent two decades immersed in it. It’s how I get all my copywriting work, being allergic to face to face networking. My rejection of personalised online advertising is a sad indictment of the discipline’s current quality. Despite much-vaunted Big Data, it’s obviously still very difficult to get personalisation – or as we used to call it, targeting – anywhere near right. If anyone tries to tell you it’s a marketing miracle, it isn’t. Not yet.
PS. I don’t think you can opt out of Facebook in-account ads altogether, unless you know different. Please let me know if you’ve found a way!


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