2 of 2: The Pits of Personalization

October 29th, 2018

“Personalization in advertising.” It sounds so appealing; after all, I’m a strong advocate for starting with the audience when crafting an effective advertising message.

But the way personalization is currently employed is disturbing, and often has the unintended effect of alienating the very audience it’s supposed to connect with.

It’s either creepy – “You know those shoes you looked at two months ago? We’re stalking you.” – and more often, just plain wrong. The supposedly laser-targeted ads aimed at me have less relevance than the random outdoor board on my daily commute.

My day job entails researching all manner of obscure and arcane topics. Just because I once searched for animal health products doesn’t mean I own a pet. And speaking of creepy, according to a recent Wall Street Journal story, several companies employ humans – not bots – to read your emails (“it’s common practice”) in order to improve ad targeting.

Case in point: I had an email exchange with a former co-worker over a company bankruptcy. Within days, my Google search results were dominated with ads for bankruptcy attorneys. Trust me, if I ever need representation, not one of you creepy bloodsuckers will get my business.

Look, I’ve long ago given up the fantasy that there is any privacy when I go online, so the least they could do is get it right. It’s like self-driving cars: they’re coming; I’d just as soon they get it right. You want to deliver personalized ads to me? Send ads for sushi when I’m thinking about what to have for dinner. Don’t keep showing banners for cameras weeks after I’ve already bought one.

That’s not very appealing. And a complete waste of money.

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