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August 16, 2009


Chip Griffin

There's a fine line between being exploited and sharing useful information, however. I cannot tell you how many times I have been frustrated to find that a product or service existed that I could have benefited from months or years earlier. It happens to me all the time.

I would certainly appreciate targeted advertising that helped make me aware of things that I might be interested in. In fact, I would much prefer that to the shotgun-style advertising I mostly end up seeing. Ultimately, that's inefficient for marketer and consumer alike.

All that said, I am easily tempted by things -- food and gadgets especially -- that it might be better for me to avoid even if I see the advertising. But I see that as more of an issue of my own self-control than the advertiser (or marketing vehicle) being evil.

Matthew Hurst


Ironically, something that has made me very sensitive to the effects of advertising is the cutting out of tv. I haven't watched tv regularly at home for several years now, but when I do watch it (e.g. when travelling) the blast of commercials is quite overwhelming.

Chip Griffin

I watch very little TV advertising myself, mostly because I watch little live TV except for sports. Everything else is on the DVR and I skip commercials. But you're right. On the rare occasion when I do get stuck watching ads, it really does feel like a rude blast of bad air!

Christien Lomax

I've toyed with the idea of trying to convince content providers to supply TV/Movies/etc DRM & embedded ad-free by either allowing:

a) The user to pay for the content directly. (ie: $2.00 for a episode of "Weeds" with no commercials, drm, etc)

b) The user to pay for content (no commercials, drm, etc) by watching specifically targeted ads, and answering short surveys about the ads, etc to earn credits toward the content.

Why this is relevant to your post: For the average, law abiding citizen, the idea of being targeted can be scary. I think recent polls suggest that many youth/young adults are less freaked by this than Gen-Xer's, etc. However, we increasingly give this information away via sites like facebook/myspace, and through our blog posts and tweets, all which can be data-mined, and we don't bat an eyelash. It is just the realization of the fact we are giving this info away for free and that what we assumed was private is in fact not, that freaks us out.

If you could instead be paid (via content, or even cash/credits) for your information, I wonder how many people would readily go for it. Especially if the info allowed more targeted advertising (ie: As a male, I wouldn't see ads for products targeted to women, and vice-versa, and I would likely see more ads for products I might be interested in like video games and culinary tools, etc).

In my example above, the end user can opt out of the ads by actually paying for the content in advance.

What I think is scary and what most people seem to be ignorant about is all the things they do on a daily basis which can be legally (in many places) tracked. These things include sites you visit on the net, the things you say on blogs, twitter, etc. I would think that ads based on those details might be scary, not because one might visit sites that they wouldn't want others to know about, but because you haven't "opted-in" about that particular information, though it could indeed be very valuable to advertisers (and others).

Your example was of a situation where they targeted the ad using info that the user willingly provided. What about all that info that is out there that users wouldn't necessarily willingly provide? That's where I think privacy laws need to be strengthen.

PS: Chip, it users like you and I (I get my TV from torrents, etc) that are the reason why the industry has to change in order to survive. More and more people are using DVRs, downloading the shows via the net or simply waiting until the shows come out on iTunes or DVD to get them in high def, ad-free. Content providers need to start offering alternative methods other than DRM ladened iTunes, etc and able networks to give users the content they want. I'd readily pay for my content, I just don't want DRM or Commercials, and I do want it in HD. It took the music industry almost a decade to figure this out. How long until TV does?

Seth Grimes

This type of targeted advertising is not scary if truly executed "[W]ith [a user's] permission." But we all know that advertisers (or ad-delivery folks) will claim permission that they haven't obtained.

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