If you've been on pretty much any website that has advertising in the margins, you've probably noticed that the ads start to "follow" you.
On the one hand, it's a little like having an overly helpful shop assistant who won't let you simply look around in the store on your own and wants to help you shop.
On the other hand, it's like getting home from that store to find a stalker sitting on your doorstep saying "You looked at this half an hour ago. Are you sure you don't want to buy it?"
I've started using some of it to my advantage, though. If I'm considering buying a new pair of shoes, for instance, but am not sure which exact style to get, I'll go to Zappos and click on a few pairs of shoes that I like. Then - for the next week or two - I'll get a rotation of ads from Zappos, each showing me a different pair of shoes like the ones I've clicked on.
This also works for book suggestions, if I go to a site like BarnesandNoble.com or Amazon. I let the sites do some comparison shopping on my behalf, and then sit back and let the photos scroll.
But then there are the ads offered by the companies who don't really have all of the right information.
For instance, though I am in my late 40s, I'm not quite ready for the "Meet singles over 55 in your area" ads. (If for no other reason than... you know... I've been with Christopher for nearly 10 years.)
The dating ads also miss their marks when they all want to suggest that I need to meet women for dating. In the margins of a couple of sites, I'm frequently shown buxom young women "looking for men in my area." Somehow, I suspect their not looking for men like me. (See above comment about being with Christopher for nearly 10 years.)
On the whole, though, I don't always mind the targeted ads - when they get it right. If there is an offer at some new restaurant, or flight deals from MSP, or a discount on books I want, I'll happily take it. I'll also happily ignore the ones that are just so wrong for me that they're laughable. I just hope that the advertiser gets some money back from the site that was so far off the mark.