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Advertising Evolves to Become More Effective and Relevant Amidst Privacy Concerns

January 17th, 2011 | News,shopping,Small Business,Social Media | No Comments »

If you own a house in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area or any state where door-to-door soliciting is legal, there’s a good chance you’ve had your fair share of canvassers come knock on your door. If the canvasser introduced himself as Mike and tried to say something about a free estimate for windows before you told him to get lost, we’ve probably already met. Like myself years ago, most canvassers are teenagers in high-school, attracted by the commission-based pay and opportunity to work outside. A backlash against door-to-door marketing has grown as disenchanted workers and homeowners accused companies of exploiting unskilled youth labor and invading personal privacy. Minors are barred from canvassing and telemarketing in many states, according to the US Department of Labor

Since beginning college at American University, I’ve left the unfortunate trade of canvassing in favor of unpaid internships that do not induce ego rot caused by constant rejection by cold-call leads. The state of advertising has evolved since, becoming more personalized by utilizing the personal information that most Americans make available online. Cold call marketing, such as through telemarketing and canvassing, is being replaced by personalized ads on the internet. Business owners are no longer left to shoot in the dark. Facebook has pioneered this front by allowing businesses to create ads (using this simple form) that appear to users based on personal information posted in their profiles. Although I’ve discovered a few good bands through these ads, aimed specifically toward me because I like 50+ artists, most are no more relevant than anything I’d expect to hear from a telemarketer. Despite Facebook’s efforts to deliver relevant ads, promotions for Methadone treatment and Doom Metal bands still make their way to bewildered consumers.

Those who have seen Steven Speilberg’s film adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report remember a scene where Tom Cruise is immediately identified by ubiquitous retina scanners when walking into a mall, and bombarded with personal advertisements. “Hey, Tom, you really look like you could use a Guinness.”

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With the consistently growing presence of advertisements in our culture, this dystopia may be an accurate prediction of the future for consumers. Is Facebook already crossing the line by utilizing users’ personal information to direct advertisements? Or is this a better alternative to being harassed by telemarketers and canvassers?

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