Advertising Age’s Matthew Creamer decided to check out how well online marketers know him, given all the hoopla about Internet  privacy, data mining, and etc. So he decided to keep track of the ads t racking him on the web.

He didn’t exactly find what he expected:

Read the press around this multibillion-dollar industry and you’re led to believe that every marketer knows enough about your demographic profile and your behavior to anticipate your desire and serve up a marketing communication so hyper-relevant it transcends its status as an ad and becomes something like information. And how you feel about that probably depends on how you view privacy. Is personal information sacrosanct or is it something that can be given up in dribs and drabs to fund all the free activity going on online and to get pitches from brands less likely to waste your time and attention?

It may indeed be the case that we’re slouching toward some “Minority Report”-like reality, but after 48 hours spent looking hard at online ads, stopping to track every impression I made for an advertiser and understand what relation, if any, it might bear to my personal information, I felt anything but paranoid. Quite the contrary — the experience was underwhelming.

The ads, Creamer writes, felt irrelevant, untargeted, and largely indistinguishable:  “The general sense of the experience was a less bittersweet version of a common post-high-school realization: ‘They really didn’t know me, did they?'”

Maybe they didn’t, but it’s not for lack of trying. Creamer concludes, “Not only did internet advertising not feel scary, it didn’t feel particularly effective, either.”

Okay, but I’m not so sure I want rely on the they’re not sharp enough to violate my privacy defense.

John R. Carroll is media analyst for NPR's Here & Now and senior news analyst for WBUR in Boston. He also writes at Campaign Outsider and It's Good to Live in a Two-Daily Town.
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