The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

71° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    The advertisers are inside your computer

    Am I that easy to read?

    I know I’m being targeted as an avid Internet user and Web site browser, and usually tend to ignore the obnoxious flashing neon ads that say, “”Do not click on me!”” When I recently decided to re-activate my Facebook account, I expected to see pictures of old drunken escapades and a profile that hadn’t changed.

    Instead, I notice an insulting weight-loss ad for women – assuming I’m overweight.

    I decided to test the software’s intelligence by refreshing my profile to see what I would be a target for.

    The first ad was somewhat off – Social Cigar Revolution. My profile does say I work at a martini and cigar bar, but that doesn’t mean I puff a fatty every once and a while.

    In my interests I have the TV series, “”Project Runway,”” as one of my favorite TV shows, and “”Fight Club”” as one of my favorite movies.

    Like clockwork, clicking refresh gives me ads for both the TV series and “”Fight Club”” posters. Pretty crazy.

    Technology gives advertisers the ability to monitor our actions and personal profiles to help them better target consumers. But what privacy issues should companies have to abide by, and when does the invasion of privacy become insulting?

    “”Ads are huge on Facebook,”” said Zack Davis, a media arts senior. “”I get some that say, ‘meet single women in Tucson.’ It’s not very surprising because it says I’m a single male in my profile.””

    Facebook has the ability to market through advanced targeting based on age, gender, location and interests.

    In Davis’s “”other interests”” he lists snowboarding, skateboarding, downhill skateboarding and other extreme sports, and he mostly notices ads for bikes and snowboards.

    I’d say they had him down to a T.

    “”One of the ads I always notice is American Apparel,”” said Malori Gabrenya, a marketing senior. “”I always end up clicking it because I shop there.””

    Advertisements are chosen based on the social demographic of the Web site, said Kim Nelson, assistant department head for Eller’s marketing department.

    “”It’s hard to tell if (advertisers) know the specific demographic or are making an assumption,”” he said. “”If you’re looking at a site where college students usually go to, they’re making an assumption about their product’s interests.””

    An enterprise like Facebook pervades student profiles with young, popular brand advertising, and sometimes insulting connotations.

    “”Because I’m a female, all the ads I ever see are for shopping and losing weight,”” Gabrenya said. “”Like the Kim Kardashian diet.””

    When obtuse ads don’t pertain to interests or previous searches, it’s easy to feel like companies have invaded your privacy.

    “”It’s kind of disconcerting to know that there’s people that can follow your path on the Internet.”” Gabrenya said. “”What if there is a Web site you didn’t want people to know you went to, and they do. You’re not aware they’re obtaining that information.””

    Gabrenya isn’t alone with her concerns.

    “”We tend to feel our privacy is invaded if the ads are inappropriate in some way,”” Nelson said. “”Sometimes you can get offensive advertising you don’t want to see.””

    But not everyone thinks all the fault lies with the Web site.

    “”On Facebook, you’re the one that’s posting the information, so it’s your choice if you want people to see it or want it to be private,”” Davis said.

    Some e-mail accounts, like Gmail, match the content in the body of your message, just like search advertisements do.

    “”If they target you because you’re on a Web site, that’s called permission marketing,”” Nelson said. “”Gmail is a real invasion of privacy.””

    Unlike the Web, which is open to anyone, some feel personal e-mail accounts and profiles should be private.

    “”Companies usually do focus groups, to figure out what you’re thinking about certain products.”” Gabrenya said. “”They’re paying you for information from your head. With the Internet they can do so many things behind the scene that you’re not aware of or given the permission to do.””

    There are unfair advantages with online advertising, but there are benefits – like the luxury of shopping from home.

    “”If you’re interested in a product, three clicks of a mouse and you can have it in a couple days,”” Gabrenya said.

    Internet advertisements thrive by drawing you in, whether a statement or related interest, the intent is to match your mood.

    “”They’ve actually picked on that product category that you’re interested in,”” Nelson said. “”Targeting the site where you put your ad is the biggest decision.””

    Facebook is not the only site using ad networks to draw users’ attention.

    Large search engines have begun to purchase online advertising networks to consolidate their methods.

    Google proposed to purchase DoubleClick for $3.1 billion, and Yahoo bought 80 percent of online ad network RightMedia for $680 million.

    This makes it easier for businesses to target consumers based on the consumers’ previous searches, on the assumption those keywords are the users’ interests or hobbies.

    One online ad network, Specific Media, also targets consumers based on online behavior.

    Online ad spending hit a record high in 2006 at $16.8 billion, a 34 percent increase from 2005, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

    Behavioral target spending is expected to triple by 2011, from $1 billion to $3.8 billion, according to eMarketer.

    The bulk of paid search advertising comes from the two search engine-moguls, Google and Yahoo; their combined shared spending on search ads increased from 73.8 percent in 2006 to over 90 percent last year.

    The majority of advertising has shifted online, but most companies look at it as their overall communication plan, Nelson said.

    “”It’s called Integrated Marketing Communication,”” Nelson said. “”Ads in all mediums should put across the same message, potentially supporting each other.””

    More to Discover
    Activate Search