Years ago, I did a TV hit with a prominent Democratic comms guy who’d recently gone into the private sector as a “new media” consultant. As we walked out of the studio afterward, he told me a story. His firm had recently met with the CEO and a dozen other top executives of a very large corporation to discuss an internet strategy for his brick and mortar company. The internet, then still powered by a massive network of hamster wheels, was a newish and exciting thing as opposed to what is today: an acceptable answer to the question, “Why is everyone miserable?”
Anyway, at the end of the meeting, during the chit-chat portion, the CEO said something like, “Hey, I have a question for you guys. What’s with all the penis enlargement ads on the internet? I mean, every site I go to seems to be running ads for this stuff. You’d think the Washington Post could get classier advertisers.”
Everyone in the room—or at least everyone in the room who understood how cookies and programmatic advertising work—looked at their feet. No one wanted to explain to him that he was getting ads based on his search activity.