The thin line between targeting and Big Brother

| December 3, 2010

Direct marketing and targeting go hand in hand. As a general rule targeted segments respond better than random segments, delivering a higher ROI. But can targeting be taken too far? 

Facebook, Ebay and Google – too much like Big Brother?

Facebook and Ebay target their on-site advertising based on your profile and/or previous history. Which sounds reasonable. But life isn’t that simple. Make too many assumptions and you can alienate people.

I give to animal, wildlife and environmental charities via Ebay’s charity donation system. Which used to mean my Ebay account was stuffed with animal charity ads and not much else. Because I didn’t want Ebay deciding what I could and couldn’t see, I turned the option off. Now I’m enjoying random ads again. That’s better!

Then there’s Facebook. Based on my profile Facebook ‘thinks’ I’m in the market for wedding dresses and menopause treatments. Hm. Yes, I’m forty eight. Yes, I’m engaged to be married for the first time. But frankly, Facebook’s targeting is more offensive than inspiring.

And there’s Google. Google claims they can use your search history to improve the search results it delivers. But I’d rather Google didn’t make value decisions on my behalf. When I search the internet I want access to everything, not just the bits Google thinks I’ll like.

OK, it makes total sense to target fishing rod offers to people who enjoy fishing, rather than any old Tom, Dick or Harry. But beyond that, targeting should be handled with great care. Otherwise you risk tipping over the edge into Big Brother territory.

If you want to stop Google keeping hold of your search history, just hit the little blue spanner in your Google toolbar and switch it off.

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Category: copywriting and marketing

By Kate Goldstone - ()

Originally from Middlesbrough, I lived in Brighton for many years before moving to North Devon. I’ve had a passion for words all my life and this is my twelfth year as a freelance writer. In my spare time I draw, paint, sculpt, carve wood and rock, garden, read, write poetry and enjoy long distance hiking. I sing and play the recorder. I collect modernist paintings, vintage rugs and mid-century German art pottery. I’m a member of The Poetry Society. And I am an experienced volunteer shepherd, a ‘Lookerer’.

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