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The Horror that is Targeted Ads!

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Have you ever been on the phone to your friend, whilst on Google, searching luxurious travel destinations for your next vacation getaway? Maybe you’re multi-tasking at this point, jamming out to your favourite song and scrolling through Facebook simultaneously. Except something you’ve just seen online makes you halt in your tracks. An advertisement has just come up on Facebook; “Cheap flights to Hawaii” it reads. Ironic, since that’s the exact same place you and your friend have been trying to book tickets to. Ah, targeted ads. I’ve had countless conversations with friends about this topic, and to be honest, we’re usually more spooked out than amazed by the accuracy of this tactic. However, do we really understand the concept of this virtual stalker?

Targeted ads are essentially a form of advertising that uses enhanced methods to target audiences, most receptive to particular traits. This is based on numerous factors. Some include psychographic details such as personality tendencies, consumer values and lifestyle choices, whilst others are based on your online activity, such as if you looked up details related to a particular scheduled target ad, before that ad goes live. However, are targeted ads a good addition to our cyber network? Or are they edging towards invasion of privacy?

Personally, targeted ads have helped me many times. When I’ve been focused on a certain task, and a pop up target ad on a one-time sale at my favourite clothing store comes up, safe to say targeted ads have helped me get far on the procrastination front. I’ve spent countless hours adding a million things to my basket only to realise, I really can’t afford things I want, and, reluctantly, getting back to my work. Sometimes, the true horror lies in the realisation that your deadline is now hours away, instead of being at a comfortable pace when it came to work; all due to clicking that enticing target ad. Classic.

In many ways, target ads have helped make a solid difference in peoples lives. Many people have had the opportunity to join support groups, mentor teams and online courses that further their education, simply because they’ve made that split-second decision to investigate an interesting target ad. Receptive audiences are key for any form of advertising. However this form of advertising serves as being extremely unique. There is no human interaction with this form of advertising. There’s nobody saying things to convince you to click an ad and give it a shot, no elaborate set up or design to lure you in. Just a pop up behind a screen that piques your interest, and has you pressing click, and that’s another interesting facet of targeted ads. Decisions that would take longer because of the back and forth in your mind simply change to decisions being made in seconds, and that’s all down to the click of a button.

Although, some people feel targeted ads side step a major boundary when it comes to cyber security: privacy. Many people often feel targeted ads are unusually accurate and this, like anything unexpected and rare, strikes concern in people. It’s a typical emotional response when things take you by surprise. The knowledge we have when it comes to the internet in general, is very insignificant compared to what the true capacity of the internet really is, therefore it’s understandable we express concern when targeted ads pop up, with none of us really having any clue how that algorithm works.

Though our knowledge on targeted ads is limited. Personally, I think the technological advancement computer systems have made is very apparent in this example. For an information system to pick up on recent searches and broadcast extensive related content in the form of advertisements not only proves how interconnected the information systems our world has today are, but goes to show that in terms of business and the global standpoint when it comes to marketing strategies, we are investing an incredible amount of time, money and energy when it comes to informing people and consumers alike about all the enticing products offered, and this sentiment extends all over the World. 2017 might be the catalyst to launching an era dedicated to computers and technological services, you never know!

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Simran Prasad

Comment Editor 2017/18

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