Thursday, April 18, 2013

Advertising and the Rights of Paranoid People on the Internet

[This essay is slowly being rewritten ... the topic is the relationship between targeted internet ads and big data machine learning of customer preferences and being slightly paranoid as you review the ads it selects for you ... which are so weird.   Several countermeasures are proposed ... ]

You know and I know that the ads we see on Google are targeted for and at us. Billions and billions of cookies and multiply/add instructions have been dedicated to determining, through expert systems and big data, what to sell to the biped, typing mammal at the other end of the line.

How many times have you waited for a web page to come up only to notice that the browser is waiting on a response from "" ? This all is part of an elaborate plot by left-wing health care supporters to gather data on our buying habits or is it?  How do we know what the data is really used for?   What if Proctor and Gamble is part of larger plot to enact gun control?   

Whenever you look at a web site today, it is trying to sell you something based on the conclusions its advanced machine-learning algorithms have selected from your interests on the internet.   But it seems there are still a few bugs in the algorithm because they are not always quite on target. 

Consider the following ads I recently recently experienced while trying to use Google Mail:


I mean, pardon me, but what the fuck ? (1) Do they know something that I don't know? Am I about to be arrested, do I need a lawyer?  Am I about to join a softball team?   Are they lying to me about joining a softball team?  What do they really mean by asking me if I want to be a personal trainer?  Why am I always the last to know?

The biggest puzzle of all is why advertisers believe that by interfering with our ability to get work done on the Internet, that we are going to be predisposed to buying from them. Watching their stupid advertisement for the latest online dating service ("Liz!  Meet Brad !!!  6 feet of handsome !") while I am trying to download the latest horror movie trailer does not make me more likely to buy their product.

Here are two ideas to throw a wrench into their sales campaign:

The first suggestion uses good old American capitalism and micro economics.  The Googles of the world are making money selling ads, the ad agencies are making money designing the ads, the companies themselves must be making money selling product, right ? So why not just put a 10th of a penny in my Paypal account for every discreet little ad, up to maybe a nickle in my Paypal account for an obnoxious full flash multimedia ad? Then, as the mafia supposedly says, I get to dip my beak in the well and everyone is happy because although worried about what the ads really mean, our advertising victim is at least getting paid for his trouble and can buy himself an antidepressant or a stiff drink with the profits.

The second idea is a little more passive aggressive.  It would not be hard to generate internet marketing countermeasures that used their weapons against them.   A program could be written that accessed the Internet and left cookies around that implied a profile that you wanted them to see.  You could be an intellectual, or very interested in beach volleyball, or even an intellectual with a very serious interest in beach volleyball, or any of a number of other interests.  Or we could be even more devious and do big data analysis of the latest marketing trends and make you either fit in, or deliberately hide your real interests by overwhelming them with fake accesses designed to hide your real marketing preferences in a mountain of carefully selected spurious data.

I hope that all Americans will unite against this conspiracy to waste our time with stupid ads that are supposedly based on our interests.

Thank you.


1. Probably stolen from Charlie Wilson's War (2007)

No comments:

Post a Comment