In Meredith Wilson’s “The Music Man”, Harold Hill arrives in River City planning to sell band instruments to the kids of the town. But he needs a hook, a reason why the parents of River City should buy band instruments (and instruction) from him. He notices the townspeople all looking into the Billiard Parlor window and learns that all the interest is in a new pool table. They’d never seen a pool table before, only billiards tables. He then launches into the song “Trouble” telling of all the vices that follow a pool table. By the end of the song the entire town is singing along with him, completely captivated by his message. Ad servers are a lot like Harold Hill. Given the slightest sign that you showed interest in something online, that interest will follow you around the world wide web. That slightest sign of interest is usually in the form of a cookie dropped by a site to your browser.
Ad servers are why if you buy your niece shoes from an online retailer, you’ll see ads for women’s shoes before getting to watch a YouTube video. You’ll see ads for women’s shoes when you visit a photography blog or a military history site. Women’s shoes offers will be sprinkled in your Facebook and Twitter feeds. Womens’ shoes will be everywhere.
You may rail that your privacy has been compromised. That “they” know too much about you.
Your privacy was compromised the nanosecond you pointed a browser or application someplace on the internet. You compromised it by entering the virtual realm.
And “they” do know too much about you, too much of which has nothing to do with you. As an uncle who doesn’t care about men’s shoes and who has no frame of reference for what so much of the female population finds fascinating in women’s shoes, I’m fine with letting “them” think women’s shoes are an interest of mine. You can ignore ads for women’s shoes as easily as you can ignore television commercials for catheters, stairlifts, drugs for diseases you’ve never heard of, cell phone plans, schools that really care about their students or jewelers.
Just because the ad servers are singing you don’t have to join the song.