If you’ve been on Instagram lately you might have seen some really confusing ads from Amazon. They’re just a picture of the product, with no details or further context.
They usually look like this:
In those images, it’s hard to even tell what the product actually is, and there’s no additional information that might help you figure it out. The first one, it turns out, is a mattress pad, and the second one is a stand for a speaker, supposedly.
How are these ads even being served? Does Amazon have a team curating these mystery products, cleverly leaving them ambiguous, or are these ads a result of an algorithm gone wild? Do these ads even make people purchase products?
At least in this ad you can tell what the product is, a, uh, steering wheel for a pirate ship maybe? But why… is this being advertised in a lightening deal? Who is buying this product? Pirates?
Anyways, there’s a lot of crazy stuff going on in the world right now, and another crazy thing is these wacky Amazon ads! It really is so crazy. Anyway, if you see a weird Amazon ad please email me immediately firstname.lastname@example.org and I promise to keep all of my sources confidential. Thank you.
UPDATE: A reader has written in to The Outline to report sightings of mysterious Amazon ads. " I had just been thoroughly confused by an entire stack of amazon ads on Instagram and screenshotted them to show my wife," said a tipster, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation from the Amazon Ad Illuminati. "I thought the randomness of them meant that my attempts at "do not track," using duck duck go, etcetera had started to thoroughly confuse the algorithms and was quite pleased, apparently it’s a bigger phenomenon." Wow. This just might be even crazier than we initially thought.
Here are some of the ads our tipster saw:
What is this??