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Is my phone listening to me for ads?

Is my phone listening to me for ads?

Seemingly scary ways to target customers.

Have you ever had a situation where you're talking to a friend and mention a brand, product or service and then almost like magic, you are served an ad for that exact thing?! It almost feels like your phone is listening to your conversation and then placing the product you’ve been speaking about in front of you.

Does your phone listen to you?

The short answer is yes, but not exactly how you think. It’s important to note, targeted ads do exist and may seem eerily accurate at times but there is no concrete evidence to suggest tech companies are listening in to your conversations.

In this article, we’ll explore what happens when it appears as if your phone is listening to you. For these examples, we’re going to use the same ‘audience of one’ for each targeting methodology and tell you how you can deliver super specific ads that ‘could’ make your audience feel like you are listening to them.

Please bear in mind, the intention of personalised ads is NOT to evoke the feeling your phone is listening to you, but these examples are just how this could occur.

Digital footprint

Your digital footprint is a virtual trail that reflects your online activities and interactions. It's an evolving collection of data points that provide a glimpse into your interests, hobbies, preferences, and even demographic information. This footprint is built through a range of actions, including using search engines, interacting on social media, making online purchases, and more.

Advertisers gather data from various sources to construct your digital footprint such as browsing history, social media activity, search queries, location data and app usage amongst others.

Technology giants like Google and Meta (formerly Facebook) utilise the data from your digital footprint to classify you into different segments. These segments are based on a multitude of factors, including age, gender, location, interests, and past behaviours. Advertisers then create targeted ads specifically designed for each segment.

Imagine you've shown an interest in fitness-related content across your digital interactions. Advertisers might place you in a segment of health enthusiasts. Consequently, you're more likely to encounter ads for fitness equipment, workout gear, or wellness products. This personalised approach aims to present you with content that aligns with your demonstrated preferences.

Lookalike (LAL) Audiences

Meta (Facebook) launched the Lookalike audience feature in 2013. Since then, other platforms such as LinkedIn have developed their own targeting tools which are based on the historical data of your connections or similar demographics and interests.

Lookalike audiences are a way your ads can reach new people who are likely to be interested in your business because they share similar characteristics to your existing customers.

How could this be interpreted as your phone listening to you? Well let’s say your friend has been talking about a particular product, well by being in the same demographic group with similar interests, that company should now be able to target you through Meta. So, it’s a likely scenario of someone who has been served these ads, spreading a company or service via word of mouth and then you are being served ads by that exact company or service.

AI contextual ads

AI contextual ads use AI and deep learning algorithms to analyse content and determine the best ads to serve. As businesses move away from cookies, contextual advertising is becoming one of the most viable options for marketers and advertisers. This approach is particularly effective in scenarios where user behaviour is not solely based on personal data but rather on the topics they engage with. By considering the content's meaning, sentiment, and relevance, AI can deliver ads that align closely with a user's current needs and desires.

Let’s take an example of looking for teeth whitening. You may be browsing content for the following questions:

‘how to get whiter teeth’

‘is teeth whitening safe?’

‘how long does teeth whitening take to see a difference?’

‘best teeth whitening products’

For our friends - the AI algorithms, the context is clear: the user is seeking information about teeth whitening. This insight prompts machine learning models to present ads related to teeth whitening across various online platforms. Brands like MySmile, Hismile, and Smiletimeteeth can capitalise on this context to ensure that their ads appear alongside relevant content. Whether the initial interest in teeth whitening was sparked by a conversation with a friend or a recommendation, AI contextual advertising ensures that users encounter content that resonates with their current interests.

What to do if you don’t want your phone to serve you personalised ads?

The digital world is changing and there have already been shifts in data policies which are restricting advertisers all the time.

If you are concerned about your privacy, you can take measures to protect it. Review and adjust your app permissions to control which apps have access to your microphone and other sensitive data. Additionally, be mindful of the information you share online and consider using privacy-oriented browser settings or ad-blocking extensions.

It's always a good practice to stay informed about the privacy policies of the apps and services you use, as well as to regularly review your device settings to ensure your privacy preferences are respected.

That being said, marketeers also have a responsibility (and in their own best interests) to serve ads to people at the right time for when they need a product or service. Content or ads should be delivered to people to help them find a solution.

How can M3 help?

Here at M3, we’re experts in delivering tailored digital marketing solutions. We’re experts in paid social media marketing, so if you’re looking for adverts that speak directly to your audience, why not request a free proposal? And, we’ll deliver a tailored solution for your business. Or if you want to find out more, contact us today.