Brands need to think more about what people actually want from them
As a digital marketing bod, I spend a lot of time auditing websites for work and that means I get served a pretty weird mixture of ads, based on my browsing history. That said, it doesn't bother me at all. I guess I've basically accepted the fact that every click on the interweb will be harvested to serve me increasingly relevant ads.
At the end of the day, you're going to get advertised to. And advertising has always used targeting to reach the right people. Once upon a time that meant printing something in 'The Times' instead of 'The Mirror', or putting a telly ad in 'Grand Designs' rather than 'You've Been Framed'. Digital advertising only makes that more specific. Is that a bad thing? To be honest, I'd rather be served ads offering me deals on mountain biking gear (I like mountain biking) than something less relevant to me.
I guess trouble can occur when advertisers are using laser targeting to reach vulnerable groups - but that's where the ASA and the ad networks themselves have to step in. Similarly, if you don't like promotional emails, don't sign up for them. Or use a service like SaneBox to filter them out.
There are only two options really. The first, if you can be arsed, is to use your browser's 'incognito' (or similar) functionality and take every effort to prevent your cookies being captured. The second is to just go with the flow - ads are just ads and you're entirely within your right to ignore them.
Personally, I use the latter approach and to be honest I barely notice ads any more. And if a brand chooses to use my browsing history to serve me some genuinely awesome mountain biking content (as opposed to a crappy ad) then I'm OK with that.
Ultimately, brands need to think more about what people actually want from them rather than finding increasingly stalky ways to throw boring or annoying ads at them. Red Bull, for example, has this nailed - they invest in creating content I genuinely want to watch rather than constantly tapping me on the head and asking if I want to buy something.
If advertisers spent as much time and money focusing on this bit of the equation, I believe people would be a little less concerned about targeting technology.