Ads that follow you around as you travel from website to website. Social media ads that use your friends’ names and likeness to try to sell you. Personalized ads that tap into your desires. They are all part of the modern marketer’s toolkit in at attempt to influence you.

creepy-adsIt may be somewhat effective, but can we all agree it’s just a bit creepy?

InMoment studied that feeling along with other concepts in a large-scale consumer marketing study.

The results show that 75% of consumers reported finding most forms of personalization at least somewhat “creepy.”

Then there are the conspiracy theories that Facebook or Google is listening to your conversations. “I have been talking about getting a cat,” said Kelly Bodwell. “I did not post about it anywhere but I DID start seeing ads for cat food.”

“I was talking a friend about how I need a phone holder in the bathroom because our counter is small,” said Morgan Crockett. Guess what ad showed up on his phone? One for a toilet paper roll holder that had a built-in ledge for your cell phone.

Or this video posted on YouTube where a couple claims they talked about a random subject in front of their phone. It was a subject, they say, they had never searched for our talked about. And they started seeing ads for it.

Facebook says it does not use your phone’s mic or camera unless you initiate it and then only for its intended purpose — like recording a video.

“Facebook does not use your phone’s microphone to inform ads or to change what you see in News Feed. Some recent articles have suggested that we must be listening to people’s conversations in order to show them relevant ads. This is not true. We show ads based on people’s interests and other profile information — not what you’re talking out loud about. We only access your microphone if you have given our app permission and if you are actively using a specific feature that requires audio. This might include recording a video or using an optional feature we introduced two years ago to include music or other audio in your status updates.” — Facebook blog

Still, with the advent of more voice-enabled controls (I’m talking about you Alexa and others), the concept doesn’t sound as far fetched. After all, these devices are actively listening for you to call it by name to wake it up. While the device does record, it writes over the recording every few seconds, they say.

Amazon Patent on Serving Ads Based on Listening

Amazon says they do not use customer information to target ads. But CBS News found a patent for Amazon online to do just that. The patent is for a process to listen for “designated trigger words” to try to sell the user a similar product. Amazon told CBS it takes years to develop patents and it has not done so to date.