The town that. Like. All of it…
What if the entire internet was built on a multi-billion dollar commercial surveillance apparatus designed to deliver targeted advertising that?
[Advertising is] a malignant mutation of an idea that efficient markets need a way to connect goods and services with people wanting to buy them. Limited to honestly informing people about what’s available on the market, it can serve a crucial function in enabling trade. In the real world however, it’s moved way past that role.
Real world advertising is not about informing, it’s about convincing. Over time, it became increasingly manipulative and dishonest. It also became more effective. In the process, it grew to consume a significant amount of resources of every company on the planet. It infected every communication medium in existence, both digital and analog. It shapes every product and service you touch, and it affects your interactions with everyone who isn’t your close friend or family member. Through all that, it actively destroys trust in people and institutions alike, and corrupts the decision-making process in any market transaction. It became a legitimized form of industrial-scale psychological abuse, and there’s no way you can resist its impact.
Jacek Złydach on.
Let’s also be clear about the myth, spread by the “interactive” (aka “relevant” and “interest-based”) advertising business, that the best online advertising is also the most targeted. That’s not the kind of advertising that made Madison Avenue, created nearly every brand you can name, and has sponsored publishers and other media for the duration. Instead it’s the goal of direct marketing, aka direct response marketing. Both of those labels are euphemistic re-brandings that the direct mail business gave itself after the world started calling it junk mail. Sure, much (or most) of the paid messages we see online are called advertising, and look like advertising; but as long as they want to get personal, they’re direct marketing.
Doc Searls on.
I’m really… not sure what I feel about this story of an ex-Mormon using targeted Facebook ads to try and subtly de-convert other church members. I mean, on the one hand I always vaguely approve of all religious de-conversion but, on the other hand—and more strongly—I super-duper disapprove of targeted advertising, especially targeted advertising that’s being used covertly by individuals against their immediate friends and family. Which is… yeah. Welcome to our brave new dystopian future, I guess!
Ads sold by Amazon, once a limited offering at the company, can now be considered a third major pillar of its business, along with e-commerce and cloud computing. Amazon’s advertising business is worth about $125 billion, more than Nike or IBM, Morgan Stanley estimates. At its core are ads placed on Amazon.com by makers of toilet paper or soap that want to appear near product search results on the site.
In addition to knowing what people buy, Amazon also knows where people live, because they provide delivery addresses, and which credit cards they use. It knows how old their children are from their baby registries, and who has a cold, right now, from cough syrup ordered for two-hour delivery. And the company has been expanding a self-service option for ad agencies and brands to take advantage of its data on shoppers.
Karen Weise on Amazon’s next product.
(Hint: the Product is You.)
[Harvard Business School scholar Shoshana] Zuboff predicts that if left unchecked, surveillance capitalism will be just as destructive as previous variants of capitalism have been, though in wholly new ways. “We are talking about the unilateral claiming of private human experience as raw material for product development and market exchange,” she said. “Industrial capitalism claimed nature for itself, and only now are we faced with the consequences of that undertaking. In this new phase of capitalism’s development, it’s the raw material of human nature that drives a new market dynamic, in which predictions of our behavior are told and then sold. The economic imperatives of this new capitalism produce extreme asymmetries of knowledge and the power that accrues from that knowledge. This is unprecedented territory with profound consequences for 21st century society.”
Dr. Nathalie Maréchal on the new surveillance.
Tl;dr, surveillance capitalism is bad for democracy and worse for humanity, and the only thing that’s going to “fix” it is regulating it the shit outta existence. (But, also, like… install an adblocker, too.)
The $7.2 billion number represents about 5% of worldwide online ad spending. To give you an example of how fuzzy this number is, the WFA (World Federation of Advertisers) says that the actual amount of fraud could easily be 30% — or six times this.
Believe it or not, if fraud accounts for just 10% of the online advertising system, in 9 years ad fraud will be the second largest source of criminal activity in the world, second only to drug trafficking.
Bob Hoffman on ad fraud.
Given that both the people being ripped off (i.e. companies advertising online) and the people doing the ripping off (i.e. people selling online ads) are both part of a garbage ecosystem, I’m really not sure exactly what I feel about this…
If an advertiser’s primary goal is to get their ad in front of people and the cost of the ad rises the more that it can be proved someone saw the ad, website makers have a strong incentive to serve ads that cover content, block content, prevent access to content temporarily, etc. Many ad-funded websites feel like they have to make a some pretty hard calculations: how much can they piss users off in order to make enough money to survive, without scaring users off completely.
I, as a web user, do not at all think many websites have calculated well. But a weird thing about the web is that because a lot of information is discovered via search engines, as long as websites can play the SEO game they will continue getting a large volume of users, and as long as those users stay on the site long enough to get some ad impressions, the site stays afloat. That is to say, even though users are pissed off at the design of the sites, the site still generates traffic because search engines are looking at the content, not the experience.
Winston Hearn on trade-offs.
Advertising is, hands down, the worst thing to ever happen to the web and that is a hot take I will die on…