Are targeted ads completely off base or am I a bit behaviorally challenged?
Well, maybe both are true...
I use Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s Gmail for my personal email endeavors. And each time I send or receive an email, the Gods of Gmail, bless their hearts, compose a list of "Sponsored Links" based on my textual email references. Taken aback by their pristine attention to detail, I oftentimes find myself letting out a shrill "Oh, you shouldn't have!" More often, however, my response entails one furrowed eyebrow (I've mastered this, yes) and a long, drawn out, "Whaaaaa?"
Targeted advertising is supposed to be a key facet of the future of the Internet, but the more I pay mind to these ads, the more I'm finding that this practice of targeting ads toward email conversations is inherently ludicrous and does very little for the crusade to narrow advertising.
I forwarded photos of my Halloween-clad self to some of my friends and some of the people I pay to be my friends. Since I was dressed as a "crazy old cat lady," Gmail thought I'd benefit from the following suggestions:
Meee-yowww? I believe that's cat language for "uh – no thanks."
Recently, my mom and I were corresponding via email and she happened to mention my brother, Ralph. Google immediately rushed to my side bearing gifts:
And, I kid you not, I opened my spam folder today and got a list of spam-inspired recipes:
What exactly are we targeting here? One's ability to use words? Gmail is completely invading my privacy without providing any sort of service. If I refer to someone as a clown in an email, this does not automatically mean I am interested in receiving advertisements for circus-related paraphernalia. Tracking one's word usage is not the same as tracking one's behavior, likes, dislikes, greatest fears, hobbies, favorite addictions, et al.
The New York Times reported last week that the FTC would like to implement tighter controls over online marketing. However, as the article states, "Randall Rothenberg, president and chief executive of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, said the agency should not regulate online advertising because it could limit what he called a recent 'extraordinary pattern of innovation.' " The extraordinary pattern being that this consistently sucks, yes?
If we are willing to have our Internet overlords tracking our online behavior, these I-Spy tactics are perhaps better off on social networking and e-commerce sites. What use are Gmail's targeted ads if they are not only invasive but also a complete stab in the dark?
Wait, did somebody say stab?
— Nicole Ferraro, Editor at Large, Internet Evolution