How Targeted Adverts Are Becoming More Extreme
Your automatic response is most likely one of revulsion. Extremely targeted ads suggest an implicit knowledge of everything about you. Isn’t that an invasion of privacy? Unfortunately, this is where we are heading and the trajectory is clear — we are very willing to trade privacy for utility.
The evolution of advertising is partially to blame. For more than a century, we have been conditioned to accept advertising as the best model for funding entertainment and information. Newspapers carried ads, so did magazines. TV shows were sponsored (as in soap operas) and we grew used to our shows being interrupted by advertising. Along came the internet and suddenly web content supported by banner ads.
Google created pay-per-click advertising based on the search queries we entered, and we were instantly amazed at how useful the served ads really were. Now that everyone has Googled thousands of times, targeted ads are a part of our online existence, and we don’t question it.
Then Facebook became the other cornerstone of our daily screen time, and a lot more is known about us. We now get ads that know it is our birthday, or that we recently got engaged.
The next innovation was remarketing, where that product you looked at (but didn’t buy) followed you around the web, urging you to reconsider.
Increased targeting has come with increased online utility — and few people complain. Ad-blocking technology has existed almost as long as online ads themselves, yet only a small portion of the online population chooses to block ads.
Augmented reality is all but guaranteed to be as integrated into our world as Google and Facebook are now. That’s where you get an information overlay wherever you are. Look at a cinema building and see the next screening times. Look at a restaurant and see the menu.
Augmented reality will be a hit, and it will need to be funded. As you look around with your Google Glass specs or high-tech contact lenses, sponsored information will intrude. Yet, due to a century of conditioning and the remarkable power of the new service, we will accept any personal intrusions.
So here’s the future of advertising, and we will happily accept it:
- Augmented reality will provide recommendations that are uncannily useful.
- Billboards will recognise us, exactly as seen in Minority Report.
- Stores will recognise us, highlight products we usually purchase and make new recommendations based on them and our demographics.
- A complex system of permissions will arise, balancing what we are willing to share in exchange for usefulness. This is already apparent in the evolution of Facebook’s privacy settings.
Marketers will need to evolve, and with the expansion of data points, finding niche angles that convert well will become a lucrative art.
So how will this look to the consumer?
- Glance at a bar and be told that 4 close friends and 97 connections have all drank there, for an average of 2.75 hours. 4% of those had future social connections with people they first met there.
- Walking past a billboard, it will recognise your regular GPS patterns of movement, time of day, how you are dressed, whether you are drunk or not (by your gait), hurried or not, alone or with others and when you last ate. It will also determine that a Mexican restaurant around the corner with $4 Coronas and all-you-can-eat tacos will appeal if they show an image of the waitress you kept looking at last time you were there.
- At the liquor store, knowing the average price you pay for wine, relative to the time of day and day or week, the shelves will highlight a Rioja that is endorsed by an actor in your favourite web show.
- According to your settings, extra-marital affairs are off-limits. So when you pass a florist, the recommendations will be for your partner, and related to anniversaries, romantic highs/lows, and how previous purchases were received. These factors for your secret lover will not be provided.
Almost every aspect of our lives will be enhanced and we will joyously accept the intrusions. And as long as we believe that we are decent, honest people with nothing to hide, the deal will be done.