Dark Marketing & Advertising – Does it sound secretive, unknown, scary and related to the marketing on the dark web.

Yes, definitely it sounds almost the same. 

But in reality, it’s nowhere close to those words or doesn’t have any connection with the dark web.

What is Dark Marketing?

Dark marketing & advertising on social media channels is the latest trend in the personalized digital marketing ecosystem and it’s changing the complete online advertising spectrum like no other trend ever did. Dark Marketing & advertising is the combination of highly fragmented, segmented, extremely personalized and retargeting marketing campaigns. Industry leaders, brands & marketers are currently shifting towards covert strategies & methods to specifically target the young crowd.

What is Dark Marketing & Advertising

A report by Street Fight Mag stated, as many as 85% of Facebook ads and 60% of YouTube ads are hidden from public view. The practice is even more common on Twitter, where an estimated 90% of ads are hidden.

As per a report by Brandsynario, dark marketing is communicating & showing sponsored ads through various discreet channels where the consumer & the potential customer gets the message but cannot actually see the company & the advertiser.

And as per the Wired Magazine’s Jargon Watch, Dark Marketing is “Discreetly sponsored online and real-world ads intended to reach the targeted audiences that would ordinarily shun corporate shilling”.

How Covert Marketing(Dark Marketing) is Changing Digital Advertising Spectrum?

Leading social media platforms like Facebook & Instagram have become favorite platforms of marketers for dark marketing & advertising campaigns. These social media platforms allow marketers to run advertisements on specific pages or accounts that will reach more specific and segmented audiences of potential consumers, instead of general, social campaigns. And yes, this is completely possible, thanks to the client’s data compiled by the organization portal.

Such data is freely shared by the users of social media platforms via their social media profiles and the posts, pictures, and videos they share, also the activity they do on such kinds of platforms. It includes the geo-locations, their interests, places, job profiles, various group pages they are active in, and a hell lot of information.

So, when done effectively, dark advertising instantly drives traffic & revenue for brands and permits them to control the conversion & engagements, without sending any data to competitors because only the targeted audience knows about the campaign and its offerings. 

Dark Marketing & Advertising trends

Dark Marketing & Advertising Trend Over The Time


Most Common Dark Marketing & Advertising Platforms
  • Native Mobile Apps – Facebook, Instagram, Spotify, etc
  • Email Channels 
  • Messaging Apps – Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, etc


Dark Marketing & Advertising – Key Features


Personalized digital marketing & advertising campaigns are taking control over the digital marketing ecosystem; there are ads everywhere let it be Shopping Platforms, Social Media Channels, News Portals, Search Engines or anything that relates to our day to day digital life(Vero is the exception in this case till now).

Even the streaming platforms like Gaana, Saavan, Podcasts are all the ads driven platforms now. Since advertisers expand their reach on almost all relatable platforms for every specific product or service, and in today’s scenario it’s almost impossible & actually pretty difficult to succeed with a single platform, so you have to fragment your campaign for almost every relatable platform.

Fragmentation is quite important and extremely effective when done right. But without the help of artificial intelligence combined with human intelligence, it seems pretty difficult to manage & succeed.


As per the BrandTotal – Segmentation is a process in which a marketer takes their current and prospective customers and divides them into targeted clusters based on shared characteristics. To make ads more relevant and meaningful for their customers.

Sounds too technical?
So here is the simpler version of it.

Segmentation strategies allow advertisers to separate their audience based on various factors like geolocation, interests, demography, social activity, joined groups, check-ins and a lot more. This is the same old thing; however, dark or covert marketing has given segmentation a new life. for example, On Facebook & Instagram, you would only see the fragmented posts if you are part of the targeted audience for the campaign.  This has made segmentation as one of the most important factors of dark marketing for marketers being left in the dark.


The third component of dark marketing and maybe the most creative one, content personalization have been a part of every advertising campaign from the begging of the personalized digital marketing spectrum.

with the integration of technologies like Artificial intelligence, AR & VR, and blockchain, Marketing campaigns are getting more creative & intelligent, they know who to target and how to target them.

Techniques of Personalised Content which are in general practice to drive results

  • Targeting & Re-targeting Personalization
  • A/B Testing Personalization
  • In-Store Personalization
  • Automated personalization (Yup, You read it right)

As per a recent Harvard Review Study, 78% of users do not want to engage and develop a relationship with an organization. Yet, when executed perfectly, personalization can be viewed as a considerable value-add to the customer experience with a given brand. Thanks to data and analytics, customers see ads based on their geo-locations, interests, and behaviors that speak directly to them.

Top brands which drove the unimaginable success with dark marketing

Apple –  Check out their twitter page, it’s completely blank still there are tweets from the apple.

Nike – Maybe the king of personalized marketing, with its creative campaigns they have taken this form of advertising to the next level.


And the list goes on……..

After taking all the key feautres of marketing on dark social also known as covert marketing (fragmentation, segmentation, and personalization) into consideration, the competitors or the relevant brands remain in dark, and without the insights of an overall online marketing spectrum, it is really difficult to run an effective social campaign to convert real customers.

Sign Off:

Dark Marketing(Covert Marketing) & marketing on dark social undoubtedly offers an amazing range of benefits for the brands but it imposes lots of threats and concerns as well, It offers little-to-no brand exposure, and can be potentially too ambiguous, also there will always be a lack of transparency as the advertiser is not known. So, the only possible approach to dominate the competitive brands is to be updated with the latest trends in online marketing technologies, otherwise, your brand can suffer a lot by remaining in the dark world of online marketing.

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Nikita Sharma is Chief Strategy Centrik @ HIcentrik. She Strategizes, Optimizes & Revises digital activities to deliver optimum results & returns.
6 Years of Global Experience in Multi-tasking, i.e. Digital Advertising, Social Media, Ad Campaigns, Web Design & Development, Lead Generation, and Reporting.