A pretense of personlisation, or how to keep those prying algos from targeting me.

In a Economic History class, 20 years ago, we had a topic on consumer goods from 1900s to present and I learnt the term, democracy of consumption. In that class, we also speculated a little the trajectory of consumer goods. One thing was that goods will become more personalised and more tailored. An example was a pair of jeans, in which the consumer’s body would be scanned in order to obtain an ultra personalised pair of jeans. The idea is that in the past only the very rich could get scanned for a personalised pair of jeans. As consumption is democratised, personalised jeans will be available at all levels of spending. Actual ultra- personalisation is never a question for the rich. For the rest of us, there is a pretense towards ultra personalisation. Machines at first listen in on our searches to to recommend advertisements that we may like. Then these eavesdropping applications tell other applications in their family and those applications perform the same recommendations. As we use the same ID to log into different applications, these machines build a profile of what we have seen across all facets of our internet life. They will perhaps accord weightage base on certain signifiers (Eg clicks, likes, supports) to determine if we like or do not like certain things that we are seeing to further tailor what we see.

Sellavision is no longer a canned message of “wait, there is more” to engage. If I were purchasing something off the shelf and am searching for reviews, the marketing message is getting personalised via influence in their areas of “selling”. No longer a TV message is crafted to be accepted by the masses but the same message is sold to me via the influencer whom I enjoy watching, listening, and, whom I believe is an independent consumer just like me.

With the technology I am no nearer to that ultra personalised pair of jeans but I am being marketed to in a personal way into buying that jeans. The privacy settings on social media gives the impression that my data is private. It only means, the marketer doesn’t know my name, email and telephone number. Does the marketer need that information to target me? No. They just need my habits, preferences and what sort of thing I click on. This data will help the social media company target marketers who target me. They are less interested in my chats with friends, status updates. They are interested in things that will be shared. So, the less that I am up in arms about on social media, the less information I am giving to the social media company. The more I am incognito, I am less likely to be campaign target.

In the old days, the search engines will rank if a page or a search is high on their list. To get listed you put all sorts of meta tags for SEO – this is free. With Google ads or Facebook ads (which is paid), these social media companies like any other business will favour revenue generating over free services. Ad buying is getting very complicated – on television, you get eyeballs, ie exposure. On social media, the buyer is buying on blind faith. The buyer has no real knowledge how the algo functions, if it functions at all. The argument for this could be, well, politicians are getting the results from putting in effort on internet advertising. Yet it is the sensationalists who are winning at social media. The ones who do not only woe and betide devastating calamity if the other side wins but puts in derogatory, inflammatory remarks against their opponents.

Where does that leave the consumer who would like ultra personalised jeans? It only exists as those ultra body hugging elastic material which looks horrible on those who have dimply knees.