Programmatic advertising can re-program you

A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research shows that ads may change how you feel about yourself. Researchers found that people who knew they were seeing targeted ads, and if they were served greener or more sophisticated products, began to think about themselves as greener and classier. In short, you become what the ads say you are. In a statement to OSU Rebecca Walker Reczek, the co-author of the study, explained:

"The power of a behaviorally targeted ad for a green product isn’t just that it persuades you to buy the advertised product. It actually makes you feel more environmentally conscious and can change your behavior. In a sense, you become more like what the ads say you are.”

Robert W. Smith, co-author of the study and assistant professor of marketing at Ohio State elaborated: “Just being aware of being targeted is not enough to change how you act. The targeting has to be based on your behavior and not just demographic attributes such as age or gender.”

When the targeting is based on behaviour, the consumer believes that the advertisers has labelled them as a type. The "green consumer" , or the "sophisticated consumer", and this in turn affects how the consumer views themselves.

“This research introduces the notion that behaviorally targeted advertisements act as implied social labels. We propose that when a consumer knows that an ad has been behaviorally targeted, he or she recognizes that the marketer has made an inference about his or her identity based on his or her past online behavior.”

“We like to think we are quite certain of who we are, but this study suggests that’s not quite the case. We are actually open to suggestions that can change, for example, how ‘outdoorsy’ or ‘sophisticated’ we feel we are. Our views of ourselves can be nudged one way or the other by something as simple as an online ad.”


The image on this article is the world first banner ad, created by Otto Timmons and Joe McCambley. It ran on HotWired Oct. 27, 1994 - and we've celebrated its birthday a few times here on adland.
The first party we threw was for the banner ads tenth birthday, which was also noted by BoingBoing and our pals at AdCritic / Get Creativity.
Five years later we celebrated again: Happy Birthday! Banner ads are 15 years old. Have you ever seen a banner ad re-program you? You will.

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Dabitch Creative Director, CEO, hell-raising sweetheart and editor of Adland. Globetrotting Swede who has lived and worked in New York, London, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Stockholm.