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So that the ads are more personalized. I know this sounds weird, but if I'm going to get ads anyway, I'd like them to potentially be products I'm going to maybe have a use for and might make my life easier.

I get the privacy implications, but asking "why would anyone agree to this" is kind of narrow-minded.

Long, long time ago, when last.fm radio was still a thing on it's own, I loved it: instead of pre-arranging a playlist, it kept adding the next song by searching for similar ones based on the one currently playing. It kept crawling away, sometimes into terrible direction, but more often into an area I'd like to refer to as "satellite".

"Satellite" would be friends-of-friends or even friends-of-friends-of-friends in social media terms.

And this is how it comes to ads: when I bought a magazine, I got a set of ads that only had a rough idea about their audience. Those edges were the ones that allowed ads to broaden my views on the world, and, therefore, ads were useful for me. This, and the financial impossibility of ever getting one - early teen in Hungary -, were the reasons why I loved Sony catalogues in the '90s.

Targeted ads are the polar opposite: they want to change me, force me to buy a certain, specific product, instead of gradually opening my interest to a lot more things in the world.

I feel the exact same way about sampling 'alien' ad culture. It's fun to switch on the local TV station in a new city and see what ads are being shown to people there. It's like a form of social calibration that shows what 'is available.' Same thing with reading the ads in the back of Popular Science or The Economist. I don't get that online unless I VPN+incognito, and I absolutely cannot get it on my phone, which is locked down much tighter.

Does that actually work though? I've been buying things on Amazon for over a decade. For a while I got my groceries through them, I watch a lot of stuff on Prime Video. You would think they, of all people, know what I like. I can't think of more than a couple times where anything suggested to me was actually something I wanted.

Even when I used FB, the ads were so off target from things I am interested in as to be laughable. Like, THIS is the best you can do with teams of engineers making > $200k/year throwing AI at everything? I'm not convinced that all of this tracking crap is just a way for them to market their ad business - "Look we gather all this data about people, your ads will definitely be seen by people who we know for a fact will be interested in them because of coding and algorithms and machine learning and blah blah blah."

> THIS is the best you can do with teams of engineers making > $200k/year throwing AI at everything?

Maybe it is the best we can currently do and maybe it isn't objectively great. But the real question: is it better? I mean, better than the random shotgun approach that was TV, magazines, bus wraps, billboards, etc. Is it better than the spam flyers or "yellow pages" the post office delivered to every single household in some geographic area?

Rather than compare to some idealized perfect, we should compare to the practical alternatives. Maybe this is legitimately the best we can currently do given the state of AI and machine learning. If that is the case, the right question for both advertisers and consumers is whether or not it beats the available alternatives. Because if it does, and advertisers seem to think it does, then that explains why Google and Facebook are worth what they are worth and how they can afford to pay what they pay.

I don't buy that. For example - I bought a rowing machine on Amazon. It was the first piece of home gym equipment I'd ever purchased. For months after, other rowing machines were suggested to me. I already bought one, why would I buy another, especially if I hadn't returned the first one?

Ads like this are very common for me - a purchase that I would consider to be a one-off thing (at least, for several years, whatever the standard lifetime of that product is) just leads to more ads for different models of that same thing. Occasionally, accessories that only go to a different model or brand of that thing.

I don't see how this is any better than the random shotgun approach - these ads that are 100% irrelevant and not going to lead to a purchase are taking up space that ads that are possibly < 100% irrelevant (even if completely random) could be occupying.

It seems like this would be a solvable problem for Amazon - aggregate the data of everyone who has purchased X model of rowing machine and see how many of them purchased a second rowing machine, which brand it was, and how long after purchasing #1 they bought #2. Don't show ads for rowing machines to people who have purchased X until time is >= avgTimeBetween1And2, with some fancy statistics in there somewhere.

Clearly I'm missing something in my logic, because plenty of people a lot smarter than me work on this adtech stuff.

> Clearly I'm missing something in my logic

Your logic may be solid but you probably lack sufficient data. Plato was a pretty smart guy but he thought the four elements were Water, Fire, Air and Earth. His mistake wasn't intelligence or even flaws in his logic - it was missing data. If you begin your logic from one or more faulty assumptions then you will arrive at wrong conclusions regardless of how intelligent you are or how flawless your application of logic is.

I don't have the data either - but you should at least use logic to consider possible reasons why you are seeing the same products you have purchased previously. Perhaps this is a strategy that wins significantly more often than you assume and you just lack the data to illuminate why.

As the other commenter noted, you are but one data point in the literal hundreds of millions of data points available to Amazon. It would be humble to consider that they've tried your best first guess approach and it was suboptimal compared to the alternatives running now. Or maybe you choose to believe you are smarter than every single engineer that has worked on the problem there? And you believe this while lacking any data, having performed no experiments, etc.

>Ads like this are very common for me - a purchase that I would consider to be a one-off thing (at least, for several years, whatever the standard lifetime of that product is) just leads to more ads for different models of that same thing. Occasionally, accessories that only go to a different model or brand of that thing.

I don't have the industry expertise to know how true it is, but I've seen it stated numerous times in threads like this that this is entirely intentional. Supposedly the data shows that a person who just bought a rowing machine is actually quite likely to buy another one (because they aren't satisfied with the first one, because they collect rowing machines, etc) compared to most other demographics.

> Clearly I'm missing something in my logic

Sampling methodology. Every ad impression in your sample was shown to the same person, but the ad industry is interested in billions of people.

I’m sorry, I don’t really follow. Could you explain a little bit more?

You weren’t served a hyper personalized ad because those get expensive at scale so they segment your id into ad target groups. You fit some form of gym enthusiast who shows interest in rowing segment and some unfortunate rowing company keeps throwing their money at you in a useless bid.

Is it one tiny increment better? Maybe? I'm with others who are not really impressed. For years the best Facebook could do were "Hot single [your gender preference] in [your city] are looking for [your age] [your gender]". Thanks, Mad Lib ads.

But for the sake of argument let's say there is some small increment. What is the cost we are willing to pay for that? Databases that know exactly how much time we spend on the toilet? Political disinformation campaigns? Insurrection attempts?

It's like making baby monitors a little bit more convenient, but in the process opening the door for pedo hackers to speak directly to your children's cribs. Tiny conveniences aren't worth sacrificing everything we have.

The 1% chance you will click on a singles ad is worth more to Facebook than a 90% chance you will click on an ad for your favourite hobby. The singles company will pay higher for that 1% click chance than anyone else. Even if Facebook could show you a more relevant ad, they are not incentivized to do so.

It doesn't matter to Facebook/Amazon whether or not they show you ads you are interested in (or that might impress you with how deep they understand you as a person). It only matters if advertisers get better results than they would get by spending their ad money on TV, Newspapers, Magazines, Radio, etc.

Perhaps a small cohort of targeted-ad-susceptible users skew the targeting efficacy stats so far it looks like targeted ads work overall.

Perhaps this cohort doesn’t overlap much with, say, New York Times readers, which might be why NYT and every other brand that tried first party non-retargeted ads saw an uptick in ROI.

For most of us, perhaps these ads don’t work or are negative, while this cohort are more like Candy Crush in-app-purchase whales — for them they really really work, so they spend enough that most players think the game is “free to play” while griping about the endless in-app-upsells.

Ah so it's the "Nigerian Prince" scam, basically?

It comes down to the advertiser who is creating the audiences on the platform. "I can haz this many people?!" A terrible analogy is no programming language can save you from yourself. The current issue is the inaugural purchase mechanic, like buying a big ticket item or something that's a one off like toilet/toilet seat and now that's all you get moving forward.

Marketers aren't trying to match you up with products that meet some unfulfilled need you have, they are trying to get you to buy anything in the very limited window available to them. You seem to be under the impression that they'll maximize that opportunity by presenting you with something you'd find useful. There are more effective ways to sell, with an enormous amount of research dedicated to perfecting the process. Unsurprisingly, the result of such efforts - unbounded by any sense of morality, are pretty disgusting. Depression. Depressed people make the best consumers. That is what they are looking for when they're tracking your off-site activity. Do you imagine they are above trying to induce depression?

Funny, I feel the opposite. If they're going to try to manipulate me, I want it to be shitty and ineffective, not as effective as possible.

Tracking aside, I prefer not to have "personalized" ads for two reasons. First, they create another bubble based on their perception of me. Second, their personalization is so poor I sometimes wonder how come advertisers believe them.

And this is all assuming you actually want to see ads. I don't. It's only when I need to buy something I enter the buying mode: I disable adblockers and start doing research - this is the only small window when ads are allowed to bother me.

If ads weren't clickbait, obnoxious, or misleading (and didn't violate your privacy) you may find yourself more open to seeing them. Even if they're not always super relevant to you and only you.

Respectful advertising will always have its place whenever the buyer has a choice. It's when the companies selling those ads learn how to manipulate their audience that the 'respectful' parts of the equation get dropped and consumers start to push back.

My Kindle shows me ads. I could pay to opt out, but I actually like the way it handles them. My (former) Alexa on the other hand was IN MY FACE with ads whenever I wanted to even just set a timer. That is grossly disrespectful of me as a human being, so it was shown the door.

> My Kindle shows me ads

I have no experience on Kindles, but on my Amazon Fire HD, I have rooted it, uninstall 50-60% of the bloatware, I have installed "NoRoot Firewall" to cut down on the unwanted comms between my tablet and Amazon, and I now have a perfectly functioning tablet for reading.

Extra tip: install ReadEra and you can read the non-Kindle-app pdf, mobi, epub, etc.

Interestingly, my preference is opposite. If I'm going to see ads anyway, ideally I want to see them in a language I don't speak.

I want personalized ads when I’m searching for product. I really don’t get the fetishization of sticking ads next to unrelated content. Like I get the whole brand mindshare aspect but that’s not exactly a small-business type of ad campaign.

Like Jesus. If a company had good ad targeting I would actually pay to access it and use it as my product search. It’s remarkably difficult given the type of product you want to buy to survey the market and find different people that sell it. I’m currently going through that hell trying to find a water filter dispenser/pitcher. All of the search results are garbage. I know there is more out there than just the 17 models of cheap plastic crap from Brita/Pur but it’s an absolute slog to actually find anything.

The Wire Cutter (NYTimes) is doing this more and more and iirc they're quite profitable in doing it. They find the "best" products and give you referral links to buy them.

Sometimes your site searches will show lists of things ("looking for a jacket? see our list of the best cold-weather gear"). This isn't a dark pattern. It's not targeting you the individual, it's targeting you the person who just explicitly showed intent to buy X. It's really how buying online would ideally work in all scenarios.

I remember the good, ol' days when you were on a kiteboarding site and the ads were for kiteboarding equipment and not for more toasters after I just bought one. I don't mind ads in the old style but I seriously resent the current state.

There are many ways to have relevant ads that don't track you as an individual.

You may find that only 70% of the ads are relevant versus 75%, but you will not find that you've unwittingly given away your personal information for the pleasure of buying something.

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