Have we taken targeting too far? Here are two rules all companies should follow.
Our ability to target has grown into an aggressive superhero power. We can cull down groups by likes, gender and age, home address, income, shopping habits, life stage, news and sports preferences, lifestyle habits, and much more. And as a result, we can feed people ads for pregnancy tests, Viagra, hair restoration products, ADD medications, infertility treatments, acne medication, and other uber-specific products.
Professor and author Joe Turow said in a recent NPR interview that the new age of digital advertising raises concerns about what companies know about people, and what they can then do with that information. "Some of them are really essential things, like, do you have diabetes? Are you a certain age that they may not want to hire you? What's your financial situation?" he says. "Will you be able to pay your mortgage?"
Turow says companies can then make certain inferences about people's behavior. "I'm concerned about...social discrimination," he says. "In an everyday world where companies are deciding [how] I'm targeted, making up pictures about me, I'm getting different ads and different discounts and different maps of even where I might sit in an airplane based on what they think about me."
In the future, Turow says, you might be placed into "reputation silos" by advertisers, who will then market products to you accordingly. "It has a lot of ramifications of how we see ourselves and how we see other people," he says. "And this is part of another issue we have to think about, which is information respect. Companies that don't respect our information and where it comes from are not respecting us, and I think moving into this new world, we have to have a situation where human beings define their own ability to be themselves."
Are we verging on digital discrimination? Are we targeting indiscriminately? iMedia's Bethany Simpson spoke with Turow in San Francisco.
Is media buying turning into digital discrimination?
2 rules companies should follow
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Advice for consumers and companies
Joseph Turow is Robert Lewis Shayon Professor of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication. Professor Turow is an elected Fellow of the International Communication Assn and was presented with a Distinguished Scholar Award by the National Communication Assn. A 2005 New York Times Magazine article referred to Professor Turow as "probably the reigning academic expert on media fragmentation." He has authored nine books, edited five books, and written more than 100 articles on mass media industries. His latest book is "The Daily You: How the New Advertising Industry is Defining Your Identity and Your Worth" (Yale University Press, 2012).