Poking holes in targeted ad algorithms

Broken dreams in faded colored times

 

David Sable, Global CEO at Y&R and a noted Linked in influencer published an article back in September 2016 that pretty much encapsulated something that we’ve been talking to clients about for ages.

His post set out to question just how targeted those ‘targeted’ Facebook and Google ads really are.

At almost 44, I was fortunate enough to start in the advertising industry before the digital wave hit. That gave me the luxury of working at a time when we were encouraged to question everything and campaign strategies were in many respects, much more ‘human’.

Today, with brands pumping millions into social media every year, it’s crucial that marketing teams born into a digital generation interrogate the data coming from Facebook and Google as opposed to giving into blind faith. Remember, both of these companies make hundreds of millions every year from advertising, so their data is not neutral and whilst the conferences, workshops and courses are all fun, they are designed to encourage you to buy ads. We all have a worth to Facebook and Google.

So let’s start by taking a look at how Facebook profiles ‘you’.

Go to https://www.facebook.com/ads/preferences and check out the thinking. Facebook say:

“How we determine your ad preferences:  We use information from a few different sources to figure out which ads might be relevant and useful to you. Things like your Facebook profile information, activity on Facebook and interactions with businesses can all influence the ads you see.”

Now, in the minds of many, Facebook and Google are infallible sources of pure data to be trusted with a fanatical belief. But the evidence would seem to suggest that in fact, their algorithms are fundamentally flawed and far from being in-depth, with the preference used to pigeonhole one’s points of interest often being tenuous to say the least.

Based on Facebook’s statement, the algorithms would seem to be pretty linear in their approach, failing to take into account human nature and that often, the online personas people project are very different to who they really are. We’ve all liked that page because we felt morally obliged to but never went back to it. We’ve all hit like on something just to keep a friend happy, but never bothered to actually read the article or watch the video. It’s just basic human nature rooted in the need for acceptance.

Like Mr., Sable, I think Google would struggle to know who I really am. For example, my search history covers topics related to work, which considering the scope of our client base, can be pretty diverse. Then there’s the fact that my granddaughter was addicted to Peppa Pig for three years and watched it every evening on my laptop before graduating onto a German speaking Gummy Bear song. So to say that Google or Facebook knows me well enough to target me, would be stretching a truth and a waste of your marketing budget.

I guess the moral of the exercise is that as a species and as consumers, we’re a lot more complicated and fickle than the algorithms would care to admit. Think on that the next time you’re putting all your eggs into a social media only basket.

Mission Accomplished!

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