If you’re not concerned by marketing algorithms on sites like Google and Facebook, you’re not paying enough attention. I was blissfully unaware of how many tailored ads are thrown at me until the last few weeks when the floodgates opened and I started seeing all of it.
It started two weeks ago. My boss had emailed me an image from a popular movie, and asked me to find a printer that would turn it into a poster for her daughter. I hadn’t done any research on it yet, but by the weekend I had a Facebook ad for that exact image from a company trying to sell me a full-sized poster. Naturally, I passed the link along and now my boss has the poster she wanted. She also has her own ads for other companies that print posters from the same movie.
We all kinda figured that Google was reading our shit and using it for ads, which is true, but if you think this shit is isolated to conversations on the interwebs then you’re in for a sad surprise. Our phones are actually listening to our verbal conversations and using what they hear to direct marketing at you. Check this shit out.
Just this week, I had two experiences with technological eavesdropping that sorta just blew my fucking mind.
We have to track our mileage at work if we drive anywhere, so that we can be reimbursed from the company. My boss is notoriously horrible at keeping up with her mileage log, and earlier this week she was bitching to me (in person, in her office) about how she was behind on her miles (working on November) and how accounting was going to have a cow. That very night, she was presented with an ad for a mileage-tracking app on Facebook.
My sister sent me this comic for a laugh, and I found it hilarious enough to print out and put up outside my office.
While several of my coworkers got the joke, more of them didn’t. Of those that didn’t, only two asked for clarification while the rest chuckled awkwardly and walked off before I could say anything that might blow their cover. I had a rather lengthy conversation with M, explaining who Schrodinger was and presenting the connection that would make the comic finally click. That night, she was browsing Pinterest and came across a sponsored ad for a shirt picturing a cat and the text “Wanted: Dead or Alive.”
If that isn’t just freaky, I don’t know what is. I’ve always been weary of what I click on; sometimes I’m just vaguely interested in a product or maybe I can’t really see what it is so I want to go to the source to check it out BUT I DON’T because unless I’m totally committed I don’t want to see more ads for that shit than I need to. But this is some next-level shit.
I had several staged conversations on Friday to see what fun ads I could get sent my way. I fully expect to start seeing plumbers, aluminum foil, anal beads, and references to movies from the 80’s filling up my Facebook feed. Not necessarily in that order.