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The ads that ruined Christmas

December 25. Little Jenny awakes from a restful sleep and stretches out her arms. She kicks off the bed covers, exposing her reindeer-print pyjamas and jumps out of bed, her heart pounding with excitement. Jenny runs down the stairs, into the living room and over to the Christmas tree, which shelters half a dozen wrapped gifts. She walks over to the largest one, which has a gift tag resting on its top that reads, “Jenny” in thick black cursive. She crouches down beside it and tentatively rocks it back and forth, desperate to discover what sits inside… At least, this is what is supposed to happen of a Christmas morning. Today, it seems more likely that little Jenny will glance over at her festively wrapped gift and think, “I can’t wait to take that BMX for a ride around the block!”

…It’s that time of year once again and if you’re anything like the Circul8 team, you have done next to none of your Christmas shopping but you have perused the internet for prospective gifts. What you may not realise however, is that none of this browsing goes unnoticed. Advertisers deliver retargeted ads based on your search and online purchase history.


According to Marketing Land, three quarters of consumers notice re-targeted ads. Consider this, and it probably becomes clear that if you share a computer at home, chances are the entire family is privy to your online shopping history.

Let’s take an example offered by Mashable:

“Let’s say you buy a PlayStation 4 for your son on the family computer. You close all your browser windows, and junior sits down at the computer to do homework. He opens a browser session — but because an ad network’s cookie has tracked your shopping, he notices ads touting deals for the PlayStation 4 surrounding every web site he visits.

Just like that, the magic of Christmas and holiday gift-giving is gone. If junior is young enough, he may wonder whether Santa is trying to send him a message or torture him: ‘I know this is what you want, kid, now you have to see it over and over again.’

And if he’s older and more savvy — well, now he knows that the last gift mum and dad will hand him on Dec. 25 is the PS4.”

So, how do we sidestep the spoiled surprises and, in effect, save Christmas for ALL (or more likely, your family of 4)?

Why not use them to your advantage as suggested by

Retargeted ads offer you a nice platform for messing with your family and causing them to believe you’ve bought them all kinds of curious (awful) Christmas gifts.

Simply throw in a few sporadic searches for Crocs and Bintang Bali singlets and your genuine gift ideas should remain concealed. Your family will be served a mix of ads – both lovely and horrid. Christmas = saved.

Little Jenny deserves that magical Christmas morning – let’s be sure she get’s it this year ;).

Happy holidays!

Written by Stephanie Nuzzo