Accepted by people everywhere. (Except BBC viewers, but I'll get to that.)
Technically advertising has been around since Survival of the Fittest became the order of the day. So, about the second day after the first amoeba crawled out of the oceanic ooze. But, more relevant to the issue at hand, it's been accepted ever since the inception of mass media. You can draw your line in history where ever you want. Go back as far as ancient Rome. Advertising has been there. "Come see men almost get eaten by lions! Enjoy food while you're there!"
But you probably want a more modern example. Then ever since the dawn of radio. Pumping 1000 W into the air wasn't cheap (the power of the first FM radio station.) Neither is pumping 100,000 W (modern FM station broadcast levels). Again, not to mention staffing and building maintenance, etc. But, in order to get wide adoption, they had to get people to listen. Many people felt that they shouldn't have to continue to pay after shelling out $100 (NOT inflation adjusted) for a radio. So they experimented with various revenue models, because even then, content wasn't free. So, the broadcasters entered into implied contract with the public. You get the content for "free", all you have to do is give up a little bit of attention in exchange.
And it worked fairly well for a period of time. TV came around, and all was good. Newspapers. Whatever other media used a similar model.
The BBC used a slightly different model where people had to pay a monthly license fee for every TV they owned. That license fee went straight to the BBC which paid for the content they saw. There were steep fees if you got caught watching TV without having paid your license fee. (Americans see it as a tax, which it essentially was.) And it worked for a while, until the advent of cable and satellite TV. Then the model came crumbling down.
And I don't know if you remember the early days of the internet (I do, check my slashdot ID#). Many other revenue models were tried. Ultimately, people, as always, are reluctant to pay for content. So, the advertising showed up, and we get to enjoy our content for "free". You just have to exchange some attention. And most people are happy with it.
Side note: Most people's discontent with online advertising is because Flash... blows. Well, that's changing. Within the next year, HTML5 ads are going to become the de facto standard, which will probably break AdBlock, at least for a little while. But, it ought to reduce the resource load. And for a brief shining moment, ads will become less annoying. Until they're not anymore.
As for your targeted marketing, there's a few issues at stake. Many people are creeped right the fuck out when ads get too targeted at them. Target already knows when women are pregnant, even before they do. It scares people enough to receive the mailer. Imagine having a "pregnant" cookie in your browser. It would become inescapable. (I don't want to get into a long discussion about cookies and privacy and what not. Regardless of how it's set, the advertisers would know.) So there's a careful balance that the advertisers deliberately strike between providing relevant ads and being too creepy. Again, be careful what you wish for.
As for your Fluke and circuit puller problems. Running ads targeted like that is expensive. Most of your Fluke vendors aren't exactly rolling in the dough. And they're trying to sell you on a product you're going to buy once a decade. It's not financially feasible for them to do highly targeted marketing. So, instead, you'll be stuck with Amazon's terrible retargeted ads (that are carefully designed to not freak you out too much.) since Amazon knows you'll probably buy something else to cover the costs of running the ads (plus, they get a mass discount due to the sheer volume of ads they run and they have an automated system to generate them that your Fluke vendor can't afford.)
You're not rewarding gross incompetence so much as you are dealing with uncanny valley of what consumers are comfortable dealing with. You're right at the edge of creepy. But, like boiling a frog (not true, I know, but i'll use the myth as analogy), they know that by increasing the relevance slowly over time, eventually people will accept highly specific targeting. Give them 5 more years. Then they'll even advance to recommending the upgraded Fluke from the one you were looking at and tell you why you want it more than the one you think you do. We (as a society) just aren't ready to accept it yet.