When peddlers of on-line advertising talk about their product, they hail ‘personalized advertising’ as a good thing, something you should actively want because, so they claim, “it is relevant content”.
But if you think carefully about it, you soon realize that this framing of the situation starts from an incorrect premise, namely that it is OK to be abused by adverts and that personalization of these ads is a cherry on top of the cake.
We disagree with this for at least the following reasons:
- By definition, advertising is manipulative: its sole purpose is to change your behavior or opinion in favor of the advertised product or service.
- Advertising interferes with what you are doing. Think about the last time you said to yourself “I’d love to watch some (on-line) ads now instead of doing what I set out to do”. Take your time…
Almost no-one likes ads or is eagerly anticipating whatever they are trying to do or accomplish, to be interrupted by an ad.
- Most people reluctantly accept advertising as a necessary evil, a way to fund things that would otherwise not get funded. This in itself is a huge indemnification of advertising and shows that, fundamentally, it is not something we desire, instead, we endure it… (even though there are ways to pay for these things; just search for the “(digital) subscription” link on, for instance, your favorite on-line news provider)
- Personalized advertising, by definition, requires an invasion of your privacy: it only works if and when you tell third parties things about you that you would otherwise never reveal. This is so that the system can get to know you, can learn about you and figure out which impulses you are most vulnerable to.
- Personalized advertising works against you: it finds your weaknesses by following you everywhere and then exploits what it finds in order to cajole you into performing actions you would otherwise not perform, namely spending your hard-earned money.
Personalized advertising is not acceptable and is really nothing more than an admission that “we realize everyone hates ads, we’re going to make the pill less bitter by trying to serve you ads that our system thinks you will object to the least“.
A pill less bitter, is still a bitter pill.