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How do targeted ads work?

Here, we'll take you through how targeted ads are put together, to demystify the process. They are tailored to the person viewing them.
© Creative Computing Institute

The point of targeted ads is that they are tailored to the person viewing them, but how exactly does this work? Here, we’ll take you through how targeted ads are put together, to demystify the process.

Ad profiles

Most web services (such as Google, Facebook and Twitter) build an ad profile around you based on your usage, which is constantly updating as your viewing habits change. This allows them to tag you with specific content interests, which gets sent to advertisers, who then fill your feed with targeted advertising.

Please note that it is possible to opt-out of targeted advertising using services such as www.youronlinechoices.com. Here, you can see a list of all the internet-based advertisers who are sending you tailored ads, you can choose to turn off ads from all companies or individual ones.

Below are some details on how to access your ad interests profile from some of the biggest internet platforms:

Facebook

On a desktop, login to your Facebook profile.

Go to your Settings, in the left-hand menu navigate to Ads > Ad Settings then in the main window click on Categories used to reach you, scroll down to your Interest categories.

Instagram

Open the Instagram app on a mobile device.

Go to your Settings and navigate to Security > Access data > from here scroll down to the bottom of the list where you will find the option to view all of your Ads Interests.

Twitter

On a desktop log-in to your Twitter profile.

Go to your Settings and select Privacy and safety, from here scroll down to the Data sharing and off-Twitter activity section. From here navigate to Ad Preferences > Interests.

Google

On a desktop, head to myaccount.google.com.

In the left-hand menu select Data & personalisation, from here navigate to the Ad Personalisation box, click on Go to ad settings where you will find your ad interests.

Discussion

Have you accessed your ad interests before, or is this something you were not aware of?

© Creative Computing Institute
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