How this or that advertising banner ends up on the screen is incomprehensible to most people. There are several myths, from eavesdropping to data self-determination, and we'll dispel them. Advertising, especially online advertising, is still a closed book for many. Even marketers can't have a complete overview - Google, Facebook, and Co. aren't exactly known for their comprehensive transparency. We've looked in detail at six common advertising myths.
1. There is a misconception that Facebook only has data from people who actively post online. People who post nothing and keep their profiles small will be virtually invisible to Facebook. That's not true.
The parent company Meta gets its data, roughly speaking, from two sources: First, from people who are logged into Facebook and Instagram and have installed those apps on their devices. Data is collected through app permissions and sync features: email addresses and contact information, account information, interests, other apps installed, phone calendar events, and more, for example. Thus, data from people who have never used Facebook or Instagram can end up in Meta - because it is stored on the Facebook user's smartphone.
On the other hand, sites with ads have implemented a Facebook pixel. This pixel collects data about people who visit the Web site. They are assigned advertising identifiers and advertising profiles in which the data is aggregated. Advertising profiles are used to display advertisements. Data is also collected through social plugins, such as buttons with which content can be shared on social media - even without clicking a button. You can read about what data Meta collects and processes in Facebook's data policy. That means no one can fully decide for themselves what personal data Meta gets.
2. The myth that smartphones and apps listen to users for advertising purposes via microphone continues to exist - perhaps because it can neither be proven nor disproven. Meta and Google deny that their apps use this option. Apps that attempt to do so would be against the rules and removed from the app stores. No evidence of eavesdropping techniques has been found anywhere.
We can identify three reasons people think they are being bugged: First, there is a frequency bias. It means that things often come up after they are first noticed. When someone brings up red bikes, they suddenly seem to be everywhere. However, they don't pop up more often-they haven't been seen before. After a person has talked about a particular product, they notice ads for that product. These ads are not reproduced because of the conversation, and the ads were not seen in the past.
In addition, location and network data are used for advertising. Interests and searches can be transferred if multiple smartphones are on the same network. So, if a person who frequently searches for tours and road bike accessories with their smartphone is often in a shared apartment, it may happen that the occupants of the shared apartment will be shown ads for road bike accessories. It leads to reason number 3: There is enough linked data to make targeting so good that it becomes supernatural.
3. Those who are digitally savvy but pay little attention to data protection and marketing can fall prey to the seductive delusion that all their data is under control. Ad and tracking blockers and VPN connections are not that simple.
Most smartphone operating systems share collected data with third parties. In principle, no provider is exempt from this. To that end, websites can at least collect first-party data themselves, even if third-party cookies are blocked. Data about users' offline behavior is also processed. Thus, data is collected from every person, offline and online, and used for advertising purposes. No one can prevent this completely; at most, the extent of this can be limited.
4. Google search looks the same for everyone!
Google search results are certainly personalized. Location is used to display local news or businesses. Language, time, browser, and the user's operating system also play a role. Previous searches and site history also affect the search results displayed.
If specific pages are visited more frequently for certain search queries, they will appear more prominently in searches. If marketers want to check if a domain appears for a keyword, they should check it in incognito mode.
Google is working on more personalization: for example, Talking Search was introduced in 2020. It was done to integrate the previous search more, which should search more like a conversation. For instance, if someone searches for movie titles, starting with the second search should display a list of movies matching the genre of titles already found. In Google Mum, images and text should make up the search query, and in Google Lens, Multisearch should make this possible. Search queries should be as personalized as possible - and so should the search results.
5. People like (good) advertising!
Plenty of surveys ask people what type of advertising they like. As a result, for example, Generation Z enjoys funny ads! Such studies should be taken with a degree of irony - an advertising agency conducted this study, and it is unclear how representative it is. The structure of the questions also affects the results. The question "When do you personally think advertising is good?" does not include a "never" answer option. Respondents are forced to give a positive answer. The response options to the question "What do you think of social media advertising?" are broader. That said, 28 percent said they drive it away whenever possible, and 27 percent said they mostly ignore it. Twenty-four percent watch ads when the content is deemed attractive, 10 percent don't notice them at all, and 8 percent of people get helpful tips. Overall, the gist of the study is this: Generation Z loves advertising, it just has to be funny or exciting in terms of content, then they will buy.
On the other hand, according to the study, 73 percent of respondents do not want social media to know their location, ethnicity (78 percent), life events such as pregnancy (79 percent), religion, or sexual orientation (81 percent each), political orientation (84 percent), health or income data (87 percent each). Respondents are also against targeting based on personal data provided by the social network (83 percent), predicting their behavior based on other people's behavior (80 percent), third-party behavioral data (78 percent), or behavioral data collected on the platform itself (75 percent). Fifty-seven percent of respondents don't want personalized advertising at all.
There is still no reliable research on the population's tolerance and acceptance of advertising. And at the same time, the best advertising can only be created if it is based on an actual image of people, not a desired one.