February 3, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 2°F


Advertising turns creepy

One T-Pain song. I bought one T-Pain song. I had some leftover iTunes money — thanks, Grandma! — and got a song recommendation from a friend with solid musical taste, i.e., he doesn’t listen to Taylor Swift. So I bought one T-Pain song. And what do you think iTunes recommended? A bunch of songs I really liked, actually.

This isn’t terribly surprising. All iTunes had to do was look at the music I already had, compare it to what people who had similar music bought and suggest I also buy those songs. It’s not a complicated process. Think of the Internet as a creepier Santa Claus: It sees you when you’re Tweeting, it knows what you Google search, and it makes a disappointed “tsk”-ing sound when it sees you looking at YouPorn. So don’t look so surprised when StumbleUpon suggests you look at a Web site you frequent. StumbleUpon isn’t omnipotent. It simply tracks where you go and then sends you to similar, and sometimes congruent, places.

Advertisers use this moderately creepy form of “iStalking” to know where to find you. Those Facebook ads on your sidebar? The ones displaying comedians you like and begging you to “date Christian singles?” Yup, those are just for you. You and everyone else who has “Waiting” down as one of their favorite movies. We may all be unique snowflakes, but we’re unique snowflakes that can be pigeonholed, labeled and marketed to like the homogenous consumer snowfall that we are.

A friend of mine saw “(500) Days of Summer” recently. He loved it. It also offended him. Why? He said it appealed to him too much. Music taste, fashion sense, preferred actress? Check, check, check. You can blame marketing, advertising’s lesser known but equally evil twin brother, for this.

But I sound paranoid. It’s not the worst thing in the entire universe that people in the business of getting you to buy stuff are getting better at their jobs. Thank the Internet, thank more colleges that train people to sell things and ideas — hey, Parkies!— thank whatever you’d like, but it’s here. They can target consumers better. I am not bothered by seeing a movie that appeals to my tastes or a Facebook ad that reminds me to buy an album of some band I like. Ask any IMC major — marketers will always get your money. Might as well spend it on stuff you really like.

Advertisers have your number, and they know you’ll pick up. Unless, of course, you’re listening to T-Pain too loudly to hear your ringtone.

Sarah Kasulke is a freshman television-radio and scriptwriting major. E-mail her at skasulk1@ithaca.edu.

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