In today’s ad tech world, Targeted Ads can help to save a country’s economy.

They can also risk users’ privacy: the more personal data the media platform collects, the better your ads will perform.

This doesn’t mean the users are open to sharing personal data, especially if they don’t know what data is being shared with whom.

For most of my career, I’ve designed and built ad campaign analytics and user tracking platforms. I’ve seen gaming brands spending millions of dollars on Facebook ads. No Facebook Campaign was targeting everyone in the world.

On the contrary: gaming companies worked really hard with MMPs to collect information about whales (top-spender gamers) and use the data to find similar audiences on Facebook.

Facebook, Google, Amazon can charge a premium for their ads because they allow you to target a specific group of users, or find similar users to your existing customers.

There will always be tension between targeted ads and users’ privacy. Because of their relationship with users, big media companies can afford to fingerprint users across the web and devices. Apple is trying to mitigate (or remedy this) but is receiving a lot of heat from advertisers.

Targeted ads are a double-edged sword: on the one hand, you can show relevant ads about products/services that users actually want. On the other hand, advertisers can manipulate users by tapping on what they’ve been consuming or publishing about.

The good news is that targeted ads don’t have to rely 100% on users’ private information: they can be contextual (ads related to the content the user is reading) or placement-based. On Google AdWords, for example, you can choose on which website to show your ads.

I don’t believe we should ban targeted-ads. We should ban big media companies from collecting users’ private information. The “give me your browsers’ history, and I will show you things you’d like to buy” deal won’t work long-term.

Revenue will drop for sure. Advertisers will resist. But, as we’ve seen is happening, ad tech companies will find smarter ways to serve relevant ads without relying on personal information.


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Leo Celis