Targetted advertising

Our privacy is under threat as never before – or so we are told – either by governments spending our money to spy on us or by mega-corporations trying to flog us stuff we neither need nor want.  I think I would find this much more terrifying if either group had shown themselves to be even remotely competent in using the information they have managed to inveigle (or just plain steal) from us.

Governments seem incapable of delivering any IT system larger than a small Excel spreadsheet without the cost over-running by multiple billions and the system arriving so late that being merely obsolete is a pipe-dream.   As a result, I shall focus my attention on the mega-corporations which our governments see as a universal aunt to solve all societies ills and to which stock markets attach quite extraordinary values.

I am a member(?) of Facebook and occasionally post my thoughts upon its willing platform – mostly whilst on long train journeys (any TV execs reading: I could be the next Michael Portillo – though I may struggle to seem quite that smug).  In return for this “free” service, Facebook delivers to my incredulous eyes a series of adverts which it has chosen specially for me.  It would seem that I am in need of a high-value divorce, a bevy of single girls (in my area!) and a discrete catheter.  I don’t recall ever mentioning problems with the female sex – either an excess or a lack – or any infirmity related to my bladder.

Twitter is no better: it too offers me soi-disant “promoted tweets” as compensation for offering me the ability to infrequently post poor quality jokes.  Most of these, along with many of the offerings from Facebook, could only be of interest to a reader resident in the US – and I have made no secret of the fact that I am not a US resident to both social networks (it is one of the few pieces of “personal” information I have vouchsafed to them).

If this is really the best they can do, I must wonder at (a) the due diligence performed by those advertising using their services and (b) their current stock valuations.  I fear the leader of the empire may be in state of some undress.

I don’t see a lot of advertising on the television, as I tend to record programmes on commercial channels and then fast forward through the ads.  This both spares me the generally tedious efforts of the advertising industry and allows me to watch two hours of television in around 90 minutes – so much more time efficient!  However, when at the cinema, I am a captive audience and see most of my moving ads (as opposed to the more static bill-board) there.  Theatre and classical music remain largely ad-free (if you ignore the programme).  This seems to be missing a trick as you have actors and/or musicians available who could usefully indulge in a bit of selling while the audience hobble to their seats.

I rather miss Pearl and Dean, and do wonder if they are still together – or just another one of this country’s rising divorce statistics.  Once, in the ABC in East Grinstead in the mid 80s, I was the sole audience member for a film entitled Turk 182.  Prior to the film beginning, we had the usual Pearl and Dean ad reel – but the film had been fed into the projector the wrong way round and it ran backwards.  The famous P&D theme sounds pretty much the same in reverse – these is no hidden demonic message (in case any readers had been worrying).

Nowadays, most of my cinema time is spent at a Picturehouse and so I have made study of the ads which are felt appropriate for an art house cinema audience.    We would seem to be in the market for broadband, moderately to very expensive cars and vodka – there is always an ad for vodka (drinking and driving seems to be positively encouraged at the flicks).  We are also subjected to an ad by a firm called Prime Location which I find actively offensive and which has convinced me never to use their services: I presume it is paid for by a consortium of other estate agents to wreck their business.  The catalogue of ads seems entirely independent of the choice of film – but my own anecdotal evidence would suggest that the choice of film does affect the audience (and, indeed, the film trailers shown).

Frankly, advertising seems only to be targetted at me in the sense that any projectile cast into the air at less than 11.2 km/s is being targetted at “the ground”.  Both will encounter their target, but not due to any virtue imparted by their method of delivery.  There is an old saying that those that can do, and those that can’t teach.  I have heard this extended to administration if teaching is too tricky – one can only imagine that marketing is all-too-often a very long way down this chain of possible careers.

3 thoughts on “Targetted advertising

  1. Semibreve says:

    Now, you may say that there was no demonic message in the reversed Pearl and Dean advertising messages, but are you the best judge of that? The thought of you being subjected to some form of diabolical influence at such a tender age does answer a great many questions about you, I feel.

  2. matathew says:

    If I understand the final paragraph correctly, it could be paraphrased as “people who work in marketing are fairly useless”.

    These days I often wonder just how many of the workforce in a great many “industries” are fairly useless. During the seven years I worked as a jobbing plumber, I was always aware that the work was exacting in nature, and that the consequences of any incompetence on my part would probably have been both dramatic and damaging. White-collar workers, meanwhile, can get away with all sorts of fairly useless stuff (as I saw for myself, and occasionally demonstrated, during 27 years of such work).

    Our ludicrously over-paid banking sector is a good illustration, where the corporate failures (requiring some type of rescue to stay in business) seem to outnumber the successes. The prudential regulator also seems to be of doubtful ability, so is maybe not fit for purpose.

    When I was a plumber, I sometimes found myself thinking that no-one should be eligible to join the middle classes (and be entrusted to carry out complex, esoteric tasks) unless he/she had passed some simple tests of practical plumbing skills. I think the results would be interesting, and in some cases highly entertaining.

  3. Stuart Ffoulkes says:

    I would tend to agree, though I’m not sure I’d stick exclusively to plumbing as the condition precedent to the middle-class . I am quite a decent theoretically plumber: I can work out what is wrong and what needs to be done to fix it – but am less keen (or competent) at the actual fixing. Nonetheless, some demonstration of the ability to do something practical and useful sounds a very good idea. In my previous abode, I was of some use to my neighbours for a combination of IT support and heavy lifting (usually not at the same time). I am also constantly amazed by the number of people who benefit from the provision of some very simple Excel skills/tricks I learnt many years ago on Lotus 1-2-3 v2.00 (very much the flint hand axe of spreadsheets).

    Whilst I picked on the folk of marketing (always B arc fodder), I oft feel my own work is pretty useless to the wider world (though much more useful than much of what goes on around me, but this may not be an entirely independent point of view) and really feel I ought to be doing something more useful with what remains of my time trolling round the sun. My problem has been deciding what I would do instead that would be of greater utility or failing that, might at least boost the sum of human happiness. Any ideas will be entertained!

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