The other night I was chatting with my fiancé while she mindlessly browsed the Internet, unaware that I was about to witness why native advertising and audience-targeting via real-time bidding (RTB) are the trends that they are.
This anecdote begins where all Internet stories about time-wasting begin: on Facebook. Or maybe it started on BuzzFeed, which is where any other time-wasting Internet story is born.
Wherever it started, my fiancé ended up on BuzzFeed and clicked one of the first posts she saw. The post sported one of those infamous click-bait titles -- something like “12 signs you’re totally ready for a fall vacation.” The final image ended up being an advertisement. “Wherever you stay, make sure it’s at our hotel!”
The ad at the bottom caught me by surprise. I had no idea the whole post was sponsored content. Neither did my fiancé. But being nuts for fall, the fact it was an ad didn’t deter her from going to Facebook to share the post with a friend. (I told you it didn’t matter where the story began -- they all end up in the same place anyway.)
She posted the link, complete with her own click-bait caption (“Number 6 was my favorite!”).
Now on her Facebook news feed, my fiancé scrolled down for about three seconds before stopping on an image that caught her attention. It was another ad, one that was admittedly well-targeted and well-timed. She clicked it and began buying the product.
I sat there -- rather dumfounded -- reflecting on what just happened. It’s one thing to be shown statistics while insiders explain why said statistics affirm a trend, but it’s another thing to observe it in the “real world.” Over the course of five minutes I watched advertisements shape the way my fiancé used the Internet through a clever combination of native advertisements, audience-targeting and RTB.