Crossing The Limit In Online Ads

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I have always been skeptical about the real impact of online paid advertising. My concern has been about ROI, but it now looks like ad networks have taken to desperate measures.

Here’s what happened with me today:

I am at the tennis court, wrapping up. Around 6:40 p.m. on Saturday. I thought about quickly checking something on the phone. In search results (from a search not related to tennis) the first result shows an ad stating, “Best tennis court lighting.”

But I have not searched for tennis court lighting for seven months.

Is it an attempt to make an ad contextual and relevant? Or blatant spying? “We know you are at the tennis court, based upon your latitude/longitude, which we are tracking without your permission. We also know it’s almost dark, therefore here’s how you can buy lights.”

Here they fail. Because the tennis court does have lighting. It’s just that I did not bother to turn it on as it was not dark enough.