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I am not my habits

on our guard against targeted advertising.

23 july 1995

Forget demographics. Forget fabrication of desire.

As citizens of the future online world, we must all be on our guard against targeted advertising.

Touted in industry circles as the greatest potential use of networked computers, advertisers are practically drooling to someday monitor our consumption to best target their pitches to our needs.

advertisers are practically drooling to someday monitor our consumption to best target their pitches to our needs

Based on their business, I imagine their pitches will be targeted to their needs.

You buy a pack of gum about every two weeks. Since you buy it with your cash card, everyone in the sweets industry has your name on their frequent buyers list. Ten days after your most recent purchase, you log into your computer and you have e-mail from Wrigley's and Bubblicious - coupons, with a button - click here for gum delivery.

You have become a habit. It may not seem that bad, heck, it might even seem like they are providing a service.

Project this over the immense number of goods we use in our lives, and it becomes immediately scarier. Instead of deciding what we want and when, advertising companies, their corporate clients, and big computer systems will be figuring it out for us.

Every morning we will have to wade through piles of product endorsements. We can't just kill filter them all, because some of them might be things we want. Heck, most of them will be things we can use, since they have psychologized us so well.

subject to endless pitches, encouraged to consume by people who seem to know us better than our friends.

They will be thinking for us. Subject to endless pitches, we will be identified by our consumer habits, immediately conscious of being encouraged to consume by people who seem to know us better than our friends.
Computers could relieve us of the burden of dealing with day to day resource management. When we need something out of reach, we could order it through the computer: acquisition, payment and delivery will be handled for us.
I intuit a new desire, decide I need arch insoles for my shoes. I don't want shoe companies knowing I need that - they would have to be too deeply involved in my life.

I expect Doctor Scholl's has their website up, and I can get the information I need there, and perhaps even order the appropriate arch insole.

Information on demand, useful and timely, as opposed to fending off the fast pitching hordes.

If I won't be targeted with advertisements and pitches, how ever will I find out about the cool new stuff?

Companies should send out samples. Share your product. Make yourself available for information and ordering.

The net is for communications between people. Don't shove products in our faces. We'll know where to find you if you have what we want. If you make good stuff, we'll hear about it.

If you want to spread the word, give folks free shit without obligation and ask them to tell their friends.

If you want to advertise, do so in context - context not of demographics, but of content.

In a world where we can be tracked and inundated with targeted product endorsements, we are going to be more reticent of giving personal information about ourselves. Seemingly harmless questions about zip codes, stereo purchases, alcohol consumption, number of dependents promise to pollute e-mail with more drek than we have to sift through in post. While it may not be killing trees, it is alienating to be endlessly pitched to, even moreso when they have you figured out.

it is alienating to be endlessly pitched to, even moreso when you have been figured out.

They understand that you get lonely when a certain friend leaves town. Knowing that that person just purchased plane tickets to split for the summer, you are pitched an escort service, your own trip somewhere, self-help books, some drugs to take your mind off your troubles when you are emotionally low.

They will find our weaknesses and exploit them to sell products.

Computers will allow them to be better at it, unless we refuse to participate in alienating high-technology immediate gratification.

Refuse when your online service wants you to tell them about your purchasing habits.

Refuse when you are offered a free subscription in return for personal information.

Remember, that is not about readers, it is about advertisers; companies making sure that you fit the type of person they imagine uses their products.

It is not hard to figure out where to advertise: is it any wonder that people who read Wired buy lots of consumer electronics? That people who read Vogue buy makeup?

The nature of the content should be enough for advertisers to go on. Advertise journeys to Japan at Howard Rheingold's page about his trip to Tokyo. Advertise cheesy sex CD-Roms on cheesy pinup pages.

If you want a better sense of who is visiting a site, take a look at the user forums. If it is mostly women, most of the discussion will be between women. If people are talking about cars, chances are the visitors buy cars, and recommend them for other people.

Allow users to expose themselves; provide space for them to be creative, and you will know who is visiting your site, what types of folks might be looking at your sponsors.

Your users will be much happier contributing than being identified by income bracket.

We can either build an Internet economy of trust and faith, catering to our whims and needs, or on targeted fabrication of desire, preying on our weakness.

I encourage all my friends in the commercial sector to be generous, and trust that their product is worth talking about. Leave the channels open for people to do so.

we could find ourselves recieving more personalized mail from products than from people

Otherwise, the Internet will accelerate the self-loathing and dissatisfaction that comes with advertising's endless call for immediate gratification. Identified by and targeted for our product consumption, we will find ourselves recieving more personalized mail from products than from people.

They will know us, and they will manipulate us.

We will end up hating the Internet, and ourselves.

c|net: precursor

their DREAM (Delivery of Real-Time Enhanced Advertising Messages) technology.

It's been reported (in the passive voice) that

This is actually the abbreviated form of the acronym.

The full form is:
World-Wide-Web End-User Targetted Delivery of Real-Time Electronic Advertising Messages.

get it?

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