<body> Public Ad Campaign: Two Related Articles About Advertising and Choice
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Thursday, January 3, 2019

Two Related Articles About Advertising and Choice

Two recent articles in the NY Times caught my attention through their relationship to one another. The first was "Places Where Smartphones Tracked People’s Movements," [HERE] and the second was "Digital Data Gives Billboard Owners More Reason to ‘Love a Good Traffic Jam’." [HERE]  Each suggest how tracking and recognition will go hand in hand to deliver targeted content that is powerful enough to bend choice in ways I don't think we have seen before. 

The goal of advertising is to present you with an idea that you will act upon. Often this is the consumption of a good or service. Persuasion is the ultimate goal and over the years repetition has been the most effective tool in the advertisers repertoire of tricks. Early on advertisers increased their chances of reaching target audiences by inserting messages at regular intervals on many advertising platforms at once, including TV, Outdoor, Print and Radio. As audiences grew, so did the advertisers ability to segment them through Nielsen ratings, focus groups, and social research. If the original idea was to present the message as often as possible, It was quickly updated with a caveat to target the vulnerable. Repeat as many times as possible, but do so to those most susceptible to your charms. For a long time everyone understood the predatory nature of advertising and accepted the fate of being distracted at regular intervals during most social events. It was a price we were wiling to pay for whatever gesture was made in return. TV programming, radio shows, print articles, subway systems, all paid for through our attention to the incantations speckled throughout. For many it has been entirely overwhelming and yet the haphazard way in which advertising content stills seems to seep into our lives has allowed us to see its idiosyncrasy and critique its end game. I have been able to outsmart the system because it revealed itself with each clumsy campaign that I was uninterested in and which revealed the production and consumption cycle in all its uselessness. I took the indignation I felt at these moments of clarity and carried them with me into my other consumer interactions. I was skeptical. The problem I see with new recognition and targeting technologies is that the messages will become so well targeted that I wont have the opportunity to peer behind the curtain. That each message will be so well attuned to my actual desires that I will begin to loose the line between what is actually me and what is the me that the machine has built for me. A few years of cross pollination between my actual personality and the very close replica of my personalty that machines are now capable of building, and my choices stop being my choices alone but some amalgamation. Its a scary and yet somewhat utopian prospect when you really get down to it, and one I'd like to think more about in 2019.

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