This article was published on November 1, 2011

Google launches “Why these ads” to educate consumers on ad targeting

Google launches “Why these ads” to educate consumers on ad targeting
Drew Olanoff
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Drew Olanoff

Drew Olanoff was The Next Web's West Coast Editor. He coined the phrase "Social Good" and invented the "donation by action" model for onlin Drew Olanoff was The Next Web's West Coast Editor. He coined the phrase "Social Good" and invented the "donation by action" model for online charitable movements. He founded #BlameDrewsCancer. You can follow him on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, or email [email protected]

Today, Google announced a new initiative from its ad team called “Why these ads”. The reason behind the feature, the company says, is to bring transparency to ad targeting. The feature is available now for ads shown within search results, and will be rolling out for ads in Gmail soon.

Advertising is at a crossroads online. With content flowing, companies are trying to find new ways to make ads relevant and attractive to consumers. Google wants to show you a little bit of what’s in its secret sauce.

Here’s what Google had to say about consumers interacting with Google ads:

Our advertising system is designed to show the right ad to the right person at the right time. Because ads should be just as useful as any other information on the web, we try to make them as relevant as possible for you. Over the coming weeks, we’re making improvements to provide greater transparency and choice regarding the ads you see on Google search and Gmail. Soon, you’ll be able to learn more about these ads by clicking the “Why these ads” link next to ads on Google search results and Gmail.

Here’s a video about the two new transparency features from Google:

Along with “Why these ads”, Google now offers an Ads preference manager.

Why these ads

If you wonder why you’re targeted with certain ads, Google will now do its best to tell you why. Of course it has to do with what you search and click on, but showing the “why” is a smart move by Google. If consumers trust the ads, they will be more apt to click and act upon them.

This is what Google had to say specifically about “Why these ads”

“Why these ads” gives you transparency
The perfect search ad answers your query and gets you what you’re looking for quickly. When you click the “Why these ads” link, you’ll find information about why you’re seeing a particular ad and how it’s personalized for you. If you’re searching for a local restaurant while you’re on vacation in Hawaii, you would see ads for restaurants that are nearby, rather than restaurants in your hometown. Or if you’re researching flat-panel televisions, and performing a series of similar searches in quick succession, you could see ads based on the query that you just entered, or based on a few recent and related queries within a single browser session. By considering the language you’re using, your geographic location and various other indications, we’re able to show you the best ads possible. We’ve been showing ads in this way for years as a way to help you quickly find what you’re looking for.

Ads preference manager

Along with showing you why you’re seeing certain ads, you will now have access to an “Ads preferences manager“. The preferences manager lets you decide which ad providers are blocked, and gives you the opportunity to opt-out of personalized advertising altogether. Clearly that’s not something that Google wants, but surfacing it as an option certainly is putting it in the hands of its users.

This type of interaction with advertisements that you see online is the only way that big companies like Google and Facebook can get you interested in them again. Of course Google lets you “+1” an ad that you find interesting, but it’s unlikely that ads alone are worth sharing. The reasoning behind why you saw a specific ad? Now that’s something to talk about.

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