I don’t want them. I. Don’t want. Them.
One of the first rules to effective communication is to never enter a debate with a group of people you respect if you know they will all vigorously disagree with you. It’s hard to get out of the gate when you lead with your chin.
I’m fixing to break that rule.
Two of my friends, Louis Gray and Jesse Stay, are agreeing that targeted ads are not as bad as some of us think they are. And that the binary nature of the current do-not track applications is not ideal. Either because targeted ads are better than random ads, or because there is or might one day be a better way to control personal data. I like and respect both of these guys and generally agree with them on technological issues.
But not this time.
While there may one day be better ways to keep people from spying on me, there aren’t now. And since the internet at large is waging war on our privacy and our ability to protect the boundaries between the online content we seek and the content developers want to force upon us, do-not track solutions are the best cover we can find. Sure, if I’m getting shot at, I’d prefer to take cover in a tank, but if there’s not one handy, a burned out minivan will do.
I fricking hate targeted ads (actually I hate all ads, but I have to pick my battles). I wish that every business that thinks it needs to track my comings and goings in an effort to trick me into parting with some of my hard-earned money would go out of business this very second. This very second. I’d rather stare at a blank screen than think some online operator is secretly sizing me up, waiting to sell me the snake oil de jour.
For one, it’s a complete waste of time, since I have never knowingly clicked on an online ad. I understand that some ads have to be there, and that’s fine. Whichever ones I can’t block with my redundant ad-blocking extensions are free to sit up there and take up some screen space. Maybe one day I’ll accidently click on one and then accidently enter my credit card details and whatnot. It’s pretty unlikely, but at least theoretically possible. And the whole ad impressions as the universal business plan is pretty theoretical anyway.
Just gather eyeballs and somehow they will magically turn into cash.
Except obviously not, because now they want to spy on us to find out what they might have a better chance of suckering us into buying.
Newsflash: I don’t need you to tell me what I want to buy. I already know, and anything I need is a web search away.
Secondly, if I want some anonymous company to follow me around and tell me what it thinks I want, I’ll ask. Like Amazon. It knows what I buy there (not because of some stupid ad, but because I go there and buy things I want, and allow it to make recommendations to me). So it makes suggestions for me. And yes, I’ve found things I like that way- mostly books and music, which lend themselves to patterns and whatnot. I’ve found lots of good music via Pandora, which I allow to track my musical tastes and apply it against its genome. And Netflix, which doesn’t have any decent new DVD releases anymore, but used to make decent recommendations to me.
There is value added there, because I have decided I want music and videos and I allowed those services to see some of my online activity.
I understand there is lots of this stuff already in play. Gmail being a prime example, I suppose. I don’t see any ads in Gmail because I block them. I guess they’re like stars during the day- they’re up there somewhere, but I can’t see them.
I sure as hell wouldn’t let some grocer peek in my window and then offer to sell me a root beer when I walk out the door because he saw me drinking my beloved Diet A&W’s.
But all of that is just chatter. I don’t want targeted ads, because I don’t want them. Period.
Go find a better business plan. One that doesn’t coopt me as your marketing R&D department.
Another of the primary rules of communication is not to force people to consume what they know they don’t want. If you want me to buy your merchandise, then spend your money making something really good. If it’s good and I decide I need it, I’ll find you.
You won’t need to sneak up on me.