iStock Serves Up Targeted Advertising

Recently, there’s been a spate of posts, both on the forums and elsewhere, about some targeted advertising that has been popping up around the net.  iStockphoto contributors are encountering iStockphoto ads that feature their images, and are wondering how their image was picked for the campaign. 

Ads will look something like this:

If you see one of these ads, you are probably the only person who has seen that particular iteration of it.  The website you are viewing is displaying an ad from a 3rd party company that specializes in using your browsing history to create targeted advertising.  At some time, you were browsing a certain image or portfolio or search on iStockphoto, and a tracking cookie was placed in your browser.  When you go to another site that displays the targeted advertising, it sees where you have been lately, including the iStockphoto pages, and munches on that data and then serves up something it thinks you might be interested in.  Which is why a lot of contributors are seeing their work in these ads, as we contributors tend to use the search functionality on our own portfolios for various reasons.  From Google:

In addition to ads based on interest categories, Google allows advertisers (including Google) to show you ads based on your previous interactions online, such as visits to advertisers’ websites. For example, someone who visited the website of an online sporting goods store can receive ads about special offers from that store.

So, as a contributor, your work was not chosen for a worldwide campaign.  It’s just some smart targeted advertising.

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