Big Brother is Watching

Topic: Human Interest

James E. Houston CIM, FCSI

August 22, 2017

Image used with permission: iStock/ValeryBrozhinsky


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Big Brother is Watching

My son just started working at Snapchat. His job is to convince ad agencies that they should place ads for their clients on Snapchat’s digital platform. Snapchat’s mobile application has approximately 173 million daily users around the world, so there is no question that it offers up an enormous audience to companies that choose to advertise there.

However, whether the advertisers are “reaching” their target audience, converting those “touches” into sales, and achieving an acceptable return on investment will determine whether the advertiser is satisfied and will generate recurring ad revenue.

I readily admit that I’m a bit of a social media luddite. I don’t use Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest. I am on Linkedin (largely to discover what my former classmates and work colleagues are up to), and I use Twitter simply as a news feed, following only a few media outlets that I trust with the dissemination of real news. I don’t follow individuals, including the “POTUS”.

When my son first started working in the media world, he worked for a large multinational ad agency where he and his team were responsible for ad spending proposals to clients, followed up by an analysis of the chosen campaign, whether print, television or digital. Since my knowledge of the advertising business was limited to reruns of Bewitched and Mad Men, I had my son sit me down and tell me about the new “facts of life”.

Advertisers now track consumers’ journeys over the internet, and powerful algorithms allow them to target certain products and services to interested customers. It’s more than a coincidence that you see banner ads for Florida hotels just a day or two after you googled “Florida Golf Courses”. And the ability to more accurately measure the success of digital campaigns bodes ill for traditional media.

In this article on ad personalization,1 Todd Wasserman describes how precision targeting has evolved, and that we should expect more surveillance of our digital footprint and more intrusion of our iPad margins, whether we like it or not.

1 Todd Wasserman, “Why Personalization in Advertising is More Than Just a Fad”, IBM, February 16, 2017.

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