With the evolution of social media, behavioral ads targeting have disrupted the advertising industry like never before. Seven years ago I even wrote a blog piece about this which you can read here (but do ignore the large broken thumbnails, thanks to Photobucket suddenly changing their business model and disabling all third-party embedded images).
The idea of selectively targeting users that would appeal to a particular product had always been there, which could not be achieved by Print, Radio or TV media. But the Digital media revolution solved all that. By tracking users' browsing behavior and history, people got to see advertisements that would most likely influence their buying decision, which was a win-win situation for both the advertisers and the target audience (unless you are concerned about privacy).
Any of you ever wondered why you keep seeing ads about stuff that you like on various websites or Facebook now and then? That is because all the ads (and not just ads but pages, groups and links you may like) are all linked to your past browsing behavior and cookies, or even your friends' activities.
You keep opening your Jabong or Myntra app to search for a particular shoe or jeans but it is not there. And suddenly one fine day as you are scrolling down your Facebook timeline, viola, that exact boot or thong you're looking for is right there, with a click that directly opens your Amazon or Clovia or Zivame app (not that I know what the last two apps are).
But recently, I learnt that Facebook had taken this feature a bit too far!
So the other night, just like any other week nights, I dragged my sorry ass back to my apartment after a long tiring day at work. Took a refreshing hot shower and switched on my PC for my daily dose of Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee, Jimmy Fallon and John Oliver (miss you Jon Stewart) when I glanced upon my Facebook timeline feed.
One of my friends and fellow blogger Bd Chawngthu had posted a GnR "Sweet Child o' Mine" cover by Jasmine Thompson.
I was immediately like, "wow!" because I have been a long time fan of Jasmine Thompson. For those of you who don't know who she is, she does this really awesome covers of popular songs and has a very angelic incandescent voice. And she's just 16 years old! I think she shot to fame with her amazing cover of "Let her go" by Passenger, but I have been following her much before that, back when she did a cover of Coldplay's Yellow.
Back then, she was known as TantrumJas, and she was very active on her Facebook page as well. Why I hold her really special now was because back then, before she got famous, she actually used to reply to my messages on her page! Yeah! I'm showing-off right here, the shameless me :D
She told me she's an atheist and we had a discussion about religion and stuff, and I was really impressed and amazed with her knowledge at such a young age. Now of course, she has almost 3 million subscribers on her YouTube page with over 450 million views, so… yeah, we don't breathe the same air anymore. But I am truly happy for her success. It was an honor to get a reply from such a celeb :)
Like most normal human beings who have this need to tell others that they once knew somebody famous, I too wanted to name-drop and boast that she once replied to my messages, so I messaged Bd immediately. :D
What followed next was a comedy of errors.
After listening to my shameless boast for a few minutes, Bd just kinda acknowledged patiently and then finally asked, "But what has all that got to do with her post?"
It was THEN that I realized, because of Facebook's personalized targeted ads, I made a fool of myself!
This is actually how Bd's post appeared on her wall…
And this is how it appeared on mine! (and it still is as of today)
I mean targeting me and showing a specific link or ad is one thing, but replacing an entire linked image from the actual source with a targeted ad is definitely something else. I mean, that is not even ethical, is it?
I ended up saying something stupid as a result.
Check out Bd's post yourself –
Do you see a picture of Axl Rose or Jasmine's cover song or something else (considering you're logged in on Facebook).
This is so weird.
At this rate, I think soon, complete status updates of friends will get replaced by ads entirely.
Yo Jimmy, why are you writing about sexually transmitted disease on your wall?
What the hell are you talking about? My latest status update was about me going to Church!
Ahhh when that day comes, it would be disastrously hilarious. :D
To the future…