Something I find myself doing more and more often lately is trying to figure out how data giants like Google and Facebook target me (or us) with VERY specific ads. If only to understand how they're collecting the data in the first place. Most of us know by now that the accounts we like or interact with on Facebook and Instagram tie into the sponsored ads we see on those platforms, or the ads we see on YouTube are directly related to the stuff we search for on Google etc. But we've all suspected the prying going way beyond that.
For instance I just received a suggestion from Google to read an article on 'the best work out leggings, according to fitness professionals'. Now, I've NEVER shopped for anything online in almost a decade (except for a Lapy Desk for my mom last month), and I don't look at clothes, let alone fitness tights, online. I rarely shop in general, and don't really interact with any kind of clothing or fitness accounts on Instagram. I do work out at home by watching exercise videos on YouTube, but why would I get an article suggestion for fitness tights rather than say, a piece on the benefits of HIIT?
I was, however, in Decathlon day before yesterday and happened to admire a pair of tights. I then had a conversation with my mom about 'beginner tights' and 'advanced tights' (I've no idea what the difference is, but visually it was apparent that the designers felt advanced athletes deserved to show more skin—the 'advanced tights' were pretty sheer around the calves while the beginner ones were completely opaque from waist to ankle). I bought a pair, paying for them by card.
But how did Google know to suggest that link (which I might add has a bunch of tights you can add to cart) the content category of which I've never seen or searched for before? Was it listening in? Did it zero down on my location? Both? More?
As a marketer, I find the possibilities exciting. Because even with just the basic tools of Facebook advertising, there's so much advertisers can do to ensure they're reaching the right audiences.
As a consumer though, there's much cause for concern. I don't like the idea of a company knowing so much about me. My defenses are raised, and I find myself making notes about how I can thwart the system—a system keeping track of the behaviors of millions of people, attacking them with targeted ads on whatever screen they may be using, trapping them in a vortex of consumerism that never ceases to spin.