So, you think you want untargeted ads? Think again

Salesforce strategist Martin Kihn gives us a real-time glimpse into a cookieless future.

What does it look like to live in a universe – or a metaverse – where ads are noticeably less relevant? Is our collective user experience really any better than what we’ve got now?

To answer this question, I conducted an experiment. I visited some of my usual websites using two different browser setups: ‘Targeted‘, with Google Chrome browser with cookies, location and IP address enabled; and ‘Untargeted‘, with Safari browser on Mac Monterey OS with location tracking turned off, browsing history cleared, and all cookies (except first-party) disabled. I also enabled a new Beta feature called Private Relay, obscuring my IP address, which can be used as a back-up ID when cookies aren’t present.

Then I took a cleansing breath, fired up the Safari browser and started surfing.

Our untargeted ad ‘FutureWorld’
Welcome to a web where nobody knows your name.

Dropping by Forbes, I’m immediately greeted by a sumptuous ad for a piece of beachfront real estate with spectacular views that do not remind me of my nearby Jones Beach, Long Island. ‘Own the Lifestyle,‘ it tells me… unfortunately, that lifestyle is in 1,300 miles away in South Beach.

Checking out a story about my man Matthew McConaughey, I see an ad for Toluna, which provides “agile consumer behavior tracking” for small and medium-sized business (SMB) owners (which I’m not) and a multi-paneled ad for Santa Teresa Rum. Now I don’t drink, but the article was about McConaughey’s whisky venture (not Santa Teresa), so I’m seeing some contextual targeting in action.

Stopping by for the latest on the Great White Way, I see an alarming ad with an older man knee-bracing a swollen limb under the headline “Bone on Bone?” Ouch. Swiss Air entices me to visit Venice and Florence… cities not actually on my Covid agenda, yet. YvesSaintLaurent lures me toward Black Opium, a perfume for women. (a repo of meme info) flatters me with an ad for Oracle NetSuite and a call-to-action to download a white paper aimed at the chief financial officer (CFO), which I am not. I’m getting a suspicion these sites have somehow ID’d me as a business guy (true) and are trying out various roles (SMB? no… how about CFO?), but this fear is allayed by the next two ads, which I don’t understand: one for something called ‘MX KEYS MINI‘ and another for a Basilisk v3 with “Full Spectrum Customizability,” which looks like a mouse powered by a tiny nuclear reactor. (It’s for gamers, which I’m not.)

Dropping by Adweek, I’m invited to explore DisneyTech, a job site for Disney (not looking)… and Swiss Air again, this time trying to get me to go to Switzerland, which is probably lovely this time of year.

Toddling back to Forbes to recheck some fine points in the McConaughey story, I enjoy different ads for Ralph Lauren eyewear, modeled by a woman who looks like her kale wilted; and Cosabella Petite 28A to Ultra Curvey 36L inviting me to feel great in “your everyday bralette,” a word I’ve never seen before.

Finally, I’ll mention that Taboola ‘outstream‘ ads, at the bottom on the page, made up in entertainment value what they lacked in relevance. On I saw one with the headline “${city:capitalized} Seniors Are Living Good In These Incredible …”

Which is one way to deal with a lack of location data, I suppose.