This Digital Privacy Company Is Using Twitter Ads to Stalk People Who Have Guns or STDs

PrivatizeMe uses targeting to fight retargeting

Headshot of Marty Swant

Nobody likes to be tracked on the Internet, but certain people especially don't like to be tracked—and a digital privacy firm is trying to take advantage of that.

PrivatizeMe—a service that lets internet users make themselves invisible to companies trying to retarget them with ads—is working with Durham, N.C.-based agency Republik to create Twitter ads that target gun owners, porn watchers, government conspirators and those with sexually transmitted diseases. The goal is to remind them all exactly how much digital dirt Big Brother (or at least big brands) might have.

"Guns and sex," summarizes Republik creative director Robert West. "Two things people don't really want you to know about them: their gun habits and their sex habits."

But while it might be clear why some want secrecy, the entire list of audiences targeted with the ads seems like more of a buckshot. The campaign also targets college-or-higher-educated African Americans, people with personal hygiene issues and people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Asked why PrivatizeMe decided to lump college-educated African Americans and LGBT people in with a laundry list of taboos, West said he thinks they would "appreciate" the online privacy offered by the company.

"There is a large contingent of educated African Americans who have a growing concern about being profiled on the web," he said. "This audience has an issue being stereotyped online due to their skin color."

Despite the ad campaign's semi-satirical focus on ad retargeting, Republik isn't actually targeting these ads based on consumers' web activity.  Instead, it's built audience segments based on Twitter users who frequently follow certain people and groups. For gun fans, that might means the brand Smith & Wesson and review website For the pornography audience, Republik is targeting those who follow a number of porn stars.

Here are some of the ads people might see:

@martyswant Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.
Publish date: June 1, 2016 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT