The Best Ad I was Ever Served

By Kimberly Manning, Brand Director at Kochava, a provider of real-time data solutions for brands advertising over connected devices.

A colleague recently posed this question on a social channel: “What’s the best ad you were ever served?” My answer came to me right away, and I realized that sometimes as consumers, we actually really appreciate a well-targeted ad.

The Background

In 2015 my data footprint shifted with two unique ‘life transition’ changes in a 12-month period: Building a house and having a baby. Suddenly I was searching for fresh topics, and really putting those algorithms through their paces. Appliance reviews, birth training methods, apps for tracking nursing and sleep of newborns, wood-burning stoves, roofing materials, stucco as a siding choice...oh how I was searching!

My husband and I built a house on a property that hadn’t been touched since the was essentially a cabin in the woods with no landscaping. The rebuild for our family of five (plus a sixth on the way) involved taking down some big trees, moving a lot of dirt, and then needing to put things back together once the house was complete. When our newborn was six weeks old, we moved into a beautiful house in the woods in the middle of a patch of mud.

The Problem

Excavation and tree removal for a build leaves you with what is known as ‘disturbed earth.’ This has to be dealt with (there are permits and requirements involved) or the land will essentially erode away, not to mention that every time one of your beloved family members enters the house, a lot of mud comes with’s utterly untenable, especially when you’re already sleep-deprived. Contouring, hardscaping, flower beds, topsoil, grass—some serious decisions had to be made fast and I needed help. I didn’t have the budget to do a comprehensive landscape installation on the heels of baby’s arrival and construction completion, but I wanted a site plan that would define a long-term strategy; a guide for prioritizing short-term projects. I began to search on some new keywords: ‘landscape architect.’

The Search

I researched options for several days and quickly narrowed down my choices. I was leaning toward one company in particular and had visited their site several times, when one of their ads popped up on my Facebook feed for the first time. The ad offered 50% off their design fee for a site plan. The design fee was $8000. When I called to speak with the company and set up an appointment, I mentioned the Facebook ad, and they were delighted to discount my fee by $4000, just like that. The system worked: they landed a new customer, I hired my company of choice, and I saved $4000. Working together was a fun process and worth every penny, and I’ll be executing projects according to the site plan for years to come. Most importantly, I was able to get some mud-free spaces and pathways completed in short order, which allowed me to restore family harmony with my older kids, and get to and from the minivan more easily while carrying an infant’s car seat.

The Result

These cases are rare and the majority of the time I, like you, am bombarded at every turn by advertisements based on my demographic profile and search history, and they are not always right. It is no secret that major tech behemoths have been exploiting our sensitive data to sell to advertisers in exchange for our access to their platforms. We are so inundated with ads that we tend to ignore them, first, or get annoyed or offended by them if the targeting is particularly off. In this rare circumstance, I was delighted to be served this ad with a generous discount. But if I hadn’t saved $4,000 would I have blinked an eye? Would I have been irked if their promotion had been wrongly targeted toward me, that my data hadn’t been used efficiently, or would it have even mattered?

My point is that I don’t consider it an invasion of privacy when an advertiser serves me a relevant ad with a valuable offer right at the time when I’m looking for it. I’m not alone in this, and advertisers are not the enemy. Ultimately, advertisers know that when they get it right, the customer is happy and likely to purchase again or recommend the brand. As consumers, we don’t feel like our data is being stolen or manipulated when there is a fair transaction that provides us value in exchange for sharing our data. The other key that comes into play in this story is that while we generally enjoy buying, we don’t like being ‘sold to.’ In this example, since I was actively searching, I was happy to be served a relevant, cost-saving ad.

What does all of this mean for advertisers, and consumers?

The tech behind advertising across connected devices, and tracking that advertising, is incredibly complex and nuanced. But that doesn’t mean it always works correctly. It’s also been aggressively infiltrated by fraudsters who find it easy to hide in the shadows of complicated code and transactions. The results of fraud noise in our data streams are that you and I are less likely to be served great ads for things we care about or want, and advertisers are less likely to connect with customers who love their products. While it is frustrating for advertisers, it’s honestly frustrating for consumers as well. In order to serve us with accuracy, advertisers need accurate data about what we want.

I have been served some excellent ads over the years and some of the companies have significantly, and positively impacted my life as a result. But while I will continue in many cases to consent for my information to be harvested, that won’t stop me from getting annoyed over the ad spam I encounter countless times a day. When we choose to operate so much of our lives through our smartphones, we are voting, to some degree, to allow our data to be used. But just like most consumers, I share my data a bit cautious of how companies are overstepping use of that data. 

So tell me, what’s the best ad you’ve ever been served? How did it solve a problem or save you money or make a valuable change in your life? I’d love to hear about it.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.