It’s Getting Personal


Do you ever feel like Facebook advertisers know you? Well, they might. Roderick Russell is a professional sword swallower. Ironically, Roderick Russell also has trouble swallowing pills. The ad below popped up as Roderick Russell scrolled through his Facebook page.


Russell assumed that advertisements were just becoming more targeted. Over time, he also realized that they were increasing in specificity and number. He began to feel paranoid and violated, a feeling that most Facebook users have experienced at some level. The difference is that Russell’s advertisements were delicately placed on his page by his roommate Brian Swichkow, a professional marketer. Brian utilized Facebook’s “Custom Audiences” ad targeting tool to place personalized ads on his roommate’s feed, partially as a prank, but partially as a study of social media marketing.

Facebook describes its Custom Audiences tool as “an ad targeting option that lets advertisers find their existing audiences among people who are on Facebook.” Already one of the most powerful and effective advertising platforms, Facebook decided to make its advertising opportunities even more powerful. The tool allows patrons to target specific users through e-mail identification, phone number, or Facebook identification. This can be an extremely beneficial tool for marketers, but what about the privacy of Facebook users? Is this mode of advertising too intrusive?

Coincidentally, the chapter that I just read for my Ethics and Communication dealt with targeting in advertising and marketing. Specifically, I remember an example that addressed unethical targeting. Orbitz used information that they collected with cookies to determine whether targets were using PCs or Macs. Based on this information, the targets would be presented with higher ticket prices, if they were Mac users or lower ticket prices if they used PCs. This, to me, is extremely unethical.

Though Custom Audiences is not yet a large problem, it is giving anybody the freedom to partake in this kind of advertising. Marketers (or roommates) can easily prey on Facebook users’ vulnerabilities. The power to manipulate via target advertising has now been spread to anyone that has the Internet, Facebook, and some extra cash. According to the “TARES” test, persuasive messaging should be truthful, authentic, respectful, equitable, and socially responsible. Custom Audiences has opened up a playing field where this test likely won’t be passed, and marketers have free reign of what they tell Facebook users. Advertising has become highly customizable and, therefore, highly powerful. It’s getting personal.

5 thoughts on “It’s Getting Personal

  1. I think this is something we are all familiar with. The ads that come up on my Facebook, YouTube, etc. are all targeted these days. Even if I Google something once or click a page by accident, it seems to have an affect on what kind of ads are targeted towards me. I think it is a good idea to market products and services specifically related to a person’s interests instead of bombarding them with an assortment of ads and hope that one sticks. That being said, I think it goes a little far sometimes to the point where it can just be annoying to consumers.


  2. I think is becoming more prevalent in all mediums of advertising and marketing. I think you have to take a two fold approach to this evolving tool. On one side I feel, yes, this is very intrusive and I feel my privacy is being tested. On the side of the promoter, or the company, I think it is a genius tool that benefits their bottom line. I believe that if it is done or performed ethically and morally, this could be the future of marketing and advertising. It already has us talking. If this is already not the new waive of media relations, it will be very soon.


  3. It’s hard to say if it’s bad or good. It’s personal, we all get it, but sometimes people tend to take advice from word of mouth, instead of some random ad or sales people. When it’s personal, it can do so much more.


  4. It is becoming more common for companies to notify us when they are using cookies on their websites. While it is nice for the company to ask, I wonder if the website really stops collecting data if you choose to say no to cookies.I know that all of our data is stored, but where do they put consumer data? And how do I know if it’s safe?


  5. It really is no news that we don’t have privacy on the internet anymore. We are bait to advertisers, but in the end I feel like there’s nothing wrong with that. As ysun2379 points out, people do tend to take advice from worth of mouth and some advice from those that know what you like isn’t really all that bad.


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