Targeted Advertising Disrupted

Thank you to Valley Business FRONT for featuring our Director of Digital Marketing, Carrie Cousins, in their January 2024 issue.

Do you like personalized ads?

I bet you said “no” almost immediately. Fueling that response is an understanding that personalized ads mean you are giving up an element of information to big companies such as Meta (Facebook) or Google.

But what happens when you disrupt the algorithm? What if everything you are seeing today, mostly posts about things you enjoy and like, shifts to something else altogether?

Recently, I conducted a little experiment in the offices at LeadPoint Digital. I was trying to find a specific type of advertiser for a product I don’t need or see ads for, in this case a new roof. 

  • Hypothesis: You can change the algorithm so that you start seeing different content in your social media feed. 
  • Step 1: Enter search queries for the topic (roofing, new roof, replace roof) in the Facebook search bar. 
  • Step 2: Talk about roofing openly among a group.

At this point you are probably feeling pretty skeptical about this little game. 

But within minutes, I started getting ads for roofers. So many that my entire Facebook feed is packed with contractors, homes with beautiful new shingles, and even companies trying to sell roofing franchises!

Changing the algorithm destroyed my ideal social media browsing experience filled with shoes, clothing, and puppies and replaced it with roofers.

So back to the question: Do you like personalized ads?

For most of us, even if it is hard to admit, the answer is yes. We generally like seeing things that appeal to us and are in alignment with our activities, interests, and daily lives. 

From a business perspective, more personalized (targeted) advertising experiences help us control budgets and engage with people who are most interested in the product or service at hand. 

Good targeting will generate better results for your business from both a brand awareness perspective and when it comes to sales and generating leads. This is why – you are in front of the right people at the right time. 

Did I mention that I actually missed a sale from a brand I love during the roofing ads experiment because that advertiser was actually pushed out of my feed? In turn, that business lost a sale. 

The good news is the algorithms are smart and will normalize to showing ads that are just for me, mostly in part because I will resume normal browsing behavior. 

But there’s an important lesson for all of us: Targeted advertising and personalization works. It impacts consumer behavior and drives sales. And when you don’t have it, online scrolling isn’t near as fun! 

Carrie Cousins is the Director of Digital Marketing at LeadPoint Digital in Roanoke. For 15+ years, she has helped businesses tell their stories and get better results online with practical digital marketing strategies. She also an active leader in AAF, serving on the local and district boards, and is an adjunct professor at Virginia Tech.