Stop the online marketing madness!

Even if online shopping isn’t really your thing, it’s the time of year when many people turn to the internet for some serious help from the new “North Pole.” The web is a great way to stay out of the mall, out of long lines, and happily shopping away in your slippers. Better yet, the presents you buy are delivered right to your door—if not straight down your chimney by Old St. Nick.

So yes, I’m all for online shopping. Except for one serious issue: the power of invasive marketing to get us to buy more—and spend more—than we should. In my opinion, intuitive, online marketing is kicking the asses of American consumers, and most people don’t even realize it.

Here’s why it matters: When it comes to managing your life savings, one of the biggest success factors is slowing your spending. Making conscious, conscientious decisions about every purchase you make can have a major impact on your finances, but keeping a lid on spending can be a challenge—especially when we’re constantly inundated with marketing that is designed to lead us away from those conscious, conscientious decisions.

The power of intuitive marketing

If you search Google for “best deal on tires”—and you actually need tires—those ads popping up on Facebook for the next week may very well lead you to a great deal at a local tire store. But what if you find yourself dreaming about a brand new red Corvette? You don’t need it, but if Santa was feeling extra generous, it may be right up there on your wish list. So you do a quick search just to feed your fantasy. And then, day after day, that beauty keeps showing up everywhere you look! Facebook. Google. Yahoo! (Paid advertising is, after all, what keeps most of the internet free. The ads are the price we pay, just like the ads on good old network television.)

The truth is, when you plugged “Corvette” into your browser, you fed much more than your fantasy. With just a few keystrokes, you handed out your dreams on a platter and fed the ubiquitous internet marketing machine. And it’s a killer.

Why? Because intuitive internet marketing really works. Recent studies show that “click throughs” aren’t the true indicator of success with online marketing campaigns. What seems to be working is the repeated image—much like roadside billboards. Suddenly, you just can’t stop thinking about that Corvette. You start to think you really need that new Corvette. Maybe it really is a priority. Or, just maybe, you’ve been clobbered by Chevy’s massive online marketing budget and its focus on behavioral targeting and online behavioral advertising (OBA).

Putting a lid on OBA

If you’ve never heard of it before, OBA is the technique used by online advertisers to create smarter, targeted, and highly personalized marketing campaigns based on their knowledge of how, where, and when to attract your attention. It’s what fuels the ads for the items you just “happened” to be thinking about (in other words, you typed the search word into a browser, included it in an email, or posted it on Facebook). While it’s become nearly impossible to outwit OBA completely, you can take a few simple steps to significantly reduce your trackability.

If you don’t want Facebook or other participating companies to collect or use information based on your activity on websites, devices, or apps for the purpose of showing you ads, you can opt out through the Digital Advertising Alliance. You can also opt out using your mobile device settings.

To stop most online advertisers from tracking your activity, see this article by Kim Komando (skip to page 2 to get straight to the ‘how to’ tips).

To stop tracking by advertisers on Google and Yahoo!, log into your Yahoo! or Gmail account and go to the Yahoo! Ad Interest Manager or Google’s Privacy Center. The “opt out buttons are on the front page of each site, along with a number of advanced options that let you decide which types of ads you would like to see, if any. 

For the marketing that does slip through the cracks, just remember to be conscious and conscientious about every purchase. We’re all going to make a few splurge purchases every now and then. For some of us, it may even be a red Corvette just in time for Christmas. But by reducing the flood of targeted online advertising and being more aware of marketing’s impact on our own behavior, we can all save a bundle in 2015 simply by limiting our spending to the things we really need and want.

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