Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Buying Chicken from Big Brother

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" It's a Brave New World we live in. Our televisions can read our minds.

Of course the flat screen needs a little assistance with that. Computer geeks to the rescue!

I read an article in the New York Times Magazine over the weekend about how a team of computer-savvy white people (mostly male) figured out how to mine the data on people who were wavering about President Obama in order to convince those people to vote for him. The idea was to spend wisely on commercial advertising. The computer team used information from Facebook (duh) and from a more widespread Nielsen-like t.v. viewing tracker. There was math and code involved. And in the process, you and I became data.

The process of marketing President Obama can be, and is being, applied to the private sector now. It works something like this:

1. You were a big fan of Kentucky Fried Chicken, but you started to put on a little weight, so you stopped going there.

2. Your favorite television show is "Rugrats" re-runs that you watch just before hitting the sack at 10:30.

3. You start seeing commercials during "Rugrats" for roasted Kentucky Fried Chicken with low-fat side dishes.

4. Since you already know where the KFC restaurant is, and you always liked the product, you find yourself returning there as a customer.

You are now data, and the numbers crunch in a way that reveals that enough KFC patrons watch "Rugrats" at 10:00 to make it worth KFC's dollar to advertise there.

The way it worked for President Obama was pretty much the same. Anyone who liked Obama's Facebook page had to open that page to all their friends, other likes, and photos. The data miners searched out friends of yours who were on the fence about Obama and then looked at what they liked. The algorithms kick in, and Obama ads get placed on "Judge Joe Brown," which is one of the shows that the computer program identified as being viewed by Obama waverers. One of the beauties of this computerized, data-driven process is that it was highly unlikely that a viewer of "Judge Joe Brown" was going to see a Romney ad in the same 30 minutes.

The people who designed this computer program for President Obama were passionate about getting him elected. Now they are equally passionate about getting customers to return to Caesar's Resorts in Las Vegas. In other words, the geeks have taken their prowess to businesses. In this case, they're trying to lure people back to gambling. Never mind that the data in this case includes people with gambling addictions who will have to see Caesar's ads during their favorite television shows. It's all about turning a buck for Caesar's.

The only way to avoid this manipulation, which may damn well be unhealthy for you (but do they care?) is to drop off the grid. We don't want to do that, though. So let us all welcome in the 21st century, where our lives are open to scrutiny not just by the N.S.A. (which, though despicable, is at least logical), but to the vices we pay for and then try to kick.

God bless America.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

The other way to deal with it is simply by realizing that every ad we see or hear is a manipulative lie. Once you don't believe them, you are free. Albeit living in a cesspool of lies, but still.

Aquila ka Hecate said...

It's difficult - for me, anyway - not to get angry when watching blatant attempts at manipulation.
But I reckon Debra's right: if we can see it and we can name it, we can avoid it.
But what about the millions who either can't see it or don't want to?
I don't know. I just work here, pulling data from databases for the nefarious use of an actuary.
Terri in Joburg

Maebius said...

I also like Debra's theme. I try to remind myself that Every. Single. Ad is meant ot lure me to something commercial. (heck, we even CALL them "TV Commercials" don't we?!)

in hte other side, as a bit of a techie, the underlying idea of this data-mining is kinda neat to my brain.

It follows with a semi-unrelated theory I argue with a good friend regarding "NSA-like scrutiny". Yes, I think it's invading my privacy, but.. BUT.. like the old romanticized "Small Town community", everyone there knew everyone's business too. Much more so than you probably know your neighbors now. There was an almost sort of comfortable privacy, in the fact everyone knew your shit, and just didn't bother you about it.

Back to Ads, knowing your customers will always be the best method of selling stuff, it's just where we draw hte line in the sand between "soft/Hard sells".