Ad Personalization Part 2: How to Avoid Creeping People Out

MediaGo Staff | 04/08/2021

We’ve previously tacked the question of how to personalize your ads to improve CTR – all without creeping your audience out. Our last post covered three important items: understanding your audience, understanding your funnel, and staying subtle in your messaging. Now, we’re revisiting this topic in more detail with a focus on execution. Let’s jump right into it! Here’s round 2 of MediaGo’s best practices for (non-creepy) ad personalization. 

No matter what platform you’re using to gain insight into your customers, it’s essential to be transparent about your data collection and offer people a choice. Due to regulations like GDPR, not only is it expected that you’ll ask people for permission to collect their data, it’s actually illegal in many countries not to ask. We realize that collecting surface-level user data is the first step towards creating audience personas to use in your ads, but it’s important to start things off on the right foot. Otherwise, when it comes time to run targeted, personalized ads, people will be rightly annoyed and creeped out.

These days, there are many different channels and formats for running digital ads. Some are inherently more intimate than others. Before putting together your next ad creative, take a step back and consider the user’s mindset when they view your ad. Will s/he be looking at news articles, watching a video, or chatting with friends online? The last thing you want to do is appear too intimate in a context that feels public or impersonal. For example, it might be overstepping your boundaries to use first names for native ad headlines on a news site. But on social media, this technique could work if done tastefully.

Retargeting is an incredibly powerful tool when done right. Unfortunately, sometimes marketers get overzealous and end up crossing the line into creepiness. An example of retargeting done in an appropriate way would be to send users an abandoned cart reminder. This approach doesn’t feel intrusive at all, since the user’s original intent was to buy the item(s) in question. In fact, it could give him/her just enough of a gentle push to complete the purchase. Retargeted “suggestion” ads based on previous purchases also tend not to feel too creepy (for example, “other shoppers bought this”). 

However, marketers should tread carefully. If you repeatedly retarget people who casually browsed interesting items on your website – with no intent to buy – it could feel overly aggressive. The key concept here is “intent”. If you can accurately understand your visitors’ intent as they journey through your site, then you’ll know the most appropriate way to retarget in the future – and avoid being creepy.

We hope you found this series useful as a jumping-off point. Remember to check back in on the MediaGo blog for more advice on digital ads and marketing.