Yes, That Ad is Following You Around the Internet

Jackie Kollar
December 10, 2018

Greetings, holiday shoppers! In our last chapter of online shopping, my colleague Stephen dug into how holding tight for the right deal is well worth the wait. Always trust that if you pass up an unbelievable offer, another offer of equal or even better value will pop up in your social feed or while you’re browsing online.

Taking that theory, I’m here to test a few ads and to see why and how they follow us around the internet. Here’s a very real-life retail situation that we all find ourselves in:


I’m on Instagram, scrolling through my feed, and I stop to find a Man Repeller post featuring pasta and hair clips. Okay, I’m interested. That post leads me to looking through the account’s full feed and realizing that there is a larger campaign around these products called the #MRHolidayBuffet.


After looking through a handful of Instagram posts, I eventually give in and click through to the Man Repeller website. (BTW: If you’ve never been, I highly suggest taking a look.) Once I’m on the site, they make pretty obvious how to head over to the site’s store so I can check out the products that were all over my Instagram feed.

The store is pretty standard, with an introduction to the product line and an arrangement of products on sale—a standard buying experience. One thing consumers don’t tend to pay too much attention to, though, is what’s happening at the top of the page, specifically within the web address.

Take a look, and notice the source and medium:

Here, we have ourselves a UTM code. What’s this you ask? This is a nifty code for tracking a specific URL. The code allows Google Analytics to tell marketers where site visitors come from as well as what campaign directed them there. All in all, it’s safe to say that Man Repeller is tracking this campaign.

To break this down a little further, the code is able to track three elements: a source, medium and campaign name. The source is where I came from, in this case the website itself. The medium is referral, essentially, I came from the website myself and not through another source. And last, the campaign, which in this case is named after the retail campaign manrepeller.


I didn’t make a purchase this time, because the never-ending holiday gifting gult hit me hard. Instead, I went about my day and the rest of the weekend. Fast forward to this past Monday morning, as I’m on Facebook (because hey, I work at a social media agency and can do that), and one of the first ads to pop up in my feed is none other than the same Man Repeller products I was browsing the prior week.

What else is a girl supposed to do? I clicked on it.


The Facebook ad took me directly back to the site’s store. I noticed that there is a UTM code on the web address, but this time it’s different because of the source and medium. Applying what I said earlier, the source (or what brought me to the website) was an ad re-targeted towards me because of my prior time spent and tracked on the web store. CREEPY. The medium (or in other words where I came from) is listed as social, and the campaign remains the same, listed as manrepeller.

CONCLUSION: Yes, that ad is following you.

So there you have it. Theory tested and concluded. The power of social and the internet with a little help from our tracking friends allows for a cycle of ads and content to help push sales. In this case, we followed a distinct pattern: Instagram feed → website → web store → Facebook ad → web store → purchase.  

I leave you on a note of caution. Ads are out there, and whether your behavior is tracked based on websites you’ve visited or by social ads you’ve clicked on, all the data is tracked through tools to ensure digital marketers serve you up the best way we can.

Happy holiday shopping!