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Personalization Uncovered: The Surprising Ways Hyper-Targeted Advertising Influences Our Thoughts, Choices, and Lives
As technology progresses, advertisers are increasingly turning to personalized marketing techniques in order to reach their target audiences. Personalization marketing is hyper-targeted advertising that utilizes data collection and analysis to tailor ads to individual users.
When you log in to your Amazon account, the way the page looks and what it suggests is highly personalized to you. If you were to look at mine, it would look very different as would other people's. It's based on our individual unique data points of purchasing habits. That includes what, when, how much, etc. It also includes what we have been looking at more recently, researching, comparing, etc.
This can be very helpful and easy the next time I want to buy that big bag of dog food or my favorite coffee beans are running out.
But there are also potential downsides to this world of personalization. I have outlined three of them:
1. The erosion of serendipity: hyper-targeted advertising limits exposure to new ideas and unexpected discoveries. Personalization may reduce the opportunities for serendipitous encounters with new information, products, or experiences, ultimately narrowing our worldviews. If your screens continue to look one particular way, you may think that is how the whole world is. Remember, personalization marketing is applied to your news feed, your social media feed, your search results, and your shopping feeds.
A fun and eye-opening experience would be to trade phones with someone for 15 minutes and take a look at their "world" as they see it. You will notice right away it is very different from your own and it's supposedly the same world with the same news. Not so much.
2. The illusion of control: hyper-targeted advertising gives us a false sense of autonomy in our consumption choices. There is a certain paradox of personalization, where increased customization in advertising may lead to a false sense of control over our choices when in reality, our options are being carefully curated by algorithms. Remember the Truman Show? He thought his world and his life were a product of his own choices, but he slowly came to realize it was all an illusion of control when he had little at all.
When all we see and have access to is a carefully curated and controlled environment that is customized to our own interests and past activity, do we really have control over that environment?
3. The desensitization effect: hyper-targeted advertising numbs our emotional response to marketing, and can diminish genuine human connection. We become so used to seeing the same ads over and over again that it no longer has an emotional impact on us. This can have the subsequent effect of weakening authentic connections with brands and other people. For instance, when we see the same advertisement in our search engine results or social media feed, it can make us feel like people are simply trying to sell us something rather than connect with us. When compounded continually day after day we can carry a sense of distrust with us that can subtly affect our interactions with others.
Now let me jump to the other side of the coin. :) I believe personalization is one of the great things about the online world we live in. It has the potential to save us time, money, and frustration. We just have to be aware of both the potential benefits and drawbacks, so that we can make informed decisions about what we see and how it affects our lives.
Some practical ways to benefit from personalized marketing while staying aware of its dangers is to set aside time each week to explore and experience the world outside of our personalized bubble. For instance, you can try reading a newspaper from another country or watching a movie with subtitles in a language you don't know. This will help take us out of our comfort zone and open up new possibilities for learning, understanding, and connecting with people around us.
Here are a few ways to adjust your browser and phone settings to have a truer sense of what is actually happening in the world and tailor your personalization preferences to your own desires:
-Set privacy and security settings in Google Chrome, Safari or Firefox
-Opt out of personalized ads on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter
-Disable location tracking on your phone
-Delete cookies regularly to update your preferences
These steps can help you take control of how you experience the online world. Personalization is here to stay, but it doesn't have to control you. We can use it to our advantage when we understand how it works and remember to step away from it every once in a while too.
What are your thoughts on personalized marketing and advertising? Please comment below!