Sometimes technology scares me. Not so much the machines themselves, but what can be done with them.
For my first couple of months in Germany I didn’t bother to change the time on my computer. It seemed unnecessary. Maybe it was a coping mechanism as I adjusted to this new reality. Eventually though I set the clock to European time. And I noticed something different.
The ads I would see on the screen changed. I might be browsing in English, but the ads are mostly in German. My location has obviously been noted. The joke is on them though, because half the time I can’t figure out the ads, especially the videos. Maybe when I learn more German…
The change didn’t surprise me – I know that anything you do online is monitored and usually someone will try and turn that for commercial advantage. My life is pretty much an open book, nothing to hide, so I suppose I don’t care that people know where I am and want to sell me something.
At the same time I have huge privacy concerns, in theory anyway. I know there is more I could do to protect my online identity, but there is also a balance involved. I could set up dummy accounts, surf the web using proxy servers and assumed names, but that seems like more effort than I want to put in. After all, I’m a homeowner, I’m on the voters list, there is so much about me already a matter of public record that it seems any further precautions now would add very little protection.
However, the latest piece of marketing I experienced shook me a little. It is one thing to have the language of the ads change because I am obviously in Germany. It is also expected that anything I look at on Amazon will show up in a targeted ad within minutes. Six months after I bought a new car I was still getting car ads. The same with my new BlackBerry – even the store I bought it from is trying to sell me another.
What inspired this post though is a targeted ad on Facebook, one that worked. I don’t get sucked in by ads; I don’t let the internet manipulate me. This time though, I clicked and bought within seconds.
Admittedly the timing was key. It was about ten days before Christmas, and I was thinking about what I should get for my wife. (We don’t exchange gifts, there’s nothing we need, but it isn’t a hard and fast rule.) A video of a mug flashed on my screen. All black, but when a hot liquid was added the mug colour changed. In the colours of the German and Canadian flags (red, white, yellow and black) were the words: In Deutschland lebend mit Kanadischen Wurzeln. I may not speak German yet, but I knew enough to translate that as “Living in Germany with Canadian roots.” The picture helped.
What could be more perfect? I spent time debating the colour options, deciding the black looked better than the purple, but that was about it. The price, in US dollars plus the shipping cost, makes this the most expensive mug we own. I could get a couple dozen mugs at the local second-hand store and probably pay less. It didn’t matter, I clicked away happily. It didn’t arrive in time for Christmas, but that’s okay – she wasn’t expecting anything.
But the whole thing has me wondering. Have the marketers perfected their algorithms to the point where someone like me is no longer impervious to their blandishments? Will they now rule the world (if they don’t already)?
Or was this a one-time thing where I was just in the right mood and the mug was just the right product for that mood.
Only time will tell, but I suspect it was a one-time thing. My wife seems to like the mug, which finally arrived Thursday. I suspect though that it is more a novelty item and won’t replace her favourite one.
The latest product someone wants to sell me is a key chain with the same design. I can’t tell you what the cost would be; I didn’t click on the link.
So much for click-bait.