Targeted advertising is a huge part of the online experience these days – vast amounts of our personal data are sorted through by algorithms to produce ads supposedly tailor-made to best suit our behavior and preferences. It is big business and the main reason why social media and search engine giants are so keen to keep us sharing and clicking as much and as often as possible.
But they don't always get it right! Unless, of course, there are actually large amounts of people out there on the lookout for a prosthetic tongue, or hamster leash. The super cheap shopping app 'Wish' spends over $100 million on Facebook ads each year, has 170 million unique products to choose from and uploads over 9 million ads every week. That's a lot for the Facebook algorithm to handle and might explain why it often throws up some pretty crazy examples.
Imgur user BexRani has been collecting weird and wonderful Wish ads for a while now and has decided to share them for our viewing pleasure. And while the ads themselves are good for a chuckle, it is BexRani's confused and sarcastic commentary that really makes the post!
What is the strangest ad you've been 'targeted' with? Have you ever actually bought anything that was advertised to you online? Scroll down below to check out some hilariously random examples of what Facebook thinks people might 'Wish' for, and let us know what you think in the comments!
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There are some theories about these ridiculous ads from Wish - that they are a deliberate tactic to shock and amuse people in to sharing and going 'viral,' thus generating free publicity for the company. Makes sense doesn't it?
However it seems to be simply a natural consequence of the algorithm. Naturally, people are shocked into curiosity by some of the products, and give it a click to find out more. The more clicks and ad gets, the more 'relevant' Facebook figures that it must be, and it starts popping up elsewhere too. Before you know it, that cat blindfold is one of the most popular ads on the internet, despite hardly any being sold.
Home MRI? Mini Tanning Bed? Blinding Device?
Whatever it is they are doing, it is clearly working for Wish. They identified the cut-price, super cheap deals as their target market, adn deal directly with manufacturers in China, thus cutting out the middle man. According to Forbes it can take two to four weeks for items to ship from China, but customers clearly don't seem to mind for these prices and the company has now been valued at $8 billion.
The company is now looking to take on giants Amazon and Alibaba to become the world biggest online retailer. “We are the sixth largest eCommerce company in the world and we're shooting for #1,” the company says on its website.
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“It’s funny,” Peter Szulczewski, CEO and founder of Wish, said to the Daily Beast about the ads, “but it’s actually suboptimal for us.
“If you’re optimizing for clicks, people will click on these items, but it’s a curiosity-driven click,” he said. “People are just clicking on things because they’re crazy. No consumers are actually purchasing these products.”
He said that he personally reviews Wish’s top-selling items every day and he’s never seen any of the strange products advertised on Facebook breach that group.
“No one is going to buy a plastic tongue thing,” he explained.
“It’s a consequence of Facebook’s ad system. It’s basically rewarding high shock value items that people will click on. If we just show a garden hose or jacket, the CTR wouldn’t be as high."
Szulczewski said Wish is in the process of creating a more restricted product list to serve specifically to Facebook, which is why you may have noticed that the weirdness of the ads has subsided in recent times. "“We’re going to start showing things people are actually buying and people will see,” he explained.
Which is all well and good, but I actually preferred seeing the weird and funny stuff, as opposed to some junk that they might think I want based on the fact that I like football, cheese and Seinfeld.
Oh well, it was fun while it lasted, and luckily someone took the time to screenshot some of the classics. Keep scrolling to check them out for yourself!