I’ve been looking at a hotel on booking.com for a conference. Incidently, a friend of mine looked at the same hotel for this conference. Now facebook informs me that this friend of mine has also been looking at the same hotel.
Isn’t this just great? Look how helpful those advertisement companies are. Maybe I’d have never met him there.
Incidently, what facebook and co apparently didn’t know is that I did a joint booking, a room for my friend and one for myself.
For some reason, my friend’s google agenda has already put this event in my friend’s calendar. And the only thing I passed to booking.com is my friend’s name.
So booking.com gives information to some advertisement company that shares this information through facebook, and it also provides information to google.com. Wow. Isn’t the internet a great place nowadays?
And seriously, all this fuzz about facebook sharing user data with some company that used this in the US election? That is simply the tip of an iceberg.
Face it: There is no regulation on the internet. There is no anonymity. Advertisement companies are exploiting everything you do. Facebook and co. are living off that.
As an economist I can only tell you: put your money in advertisement companies. Governments don’t seem to want to regulate these, and this is cleary where all the business is. After all, all the big companies are investing significant and increasing shares of their earnings on advertisement. Coca Cola spends roughly four billion USD annually on advertisement. Four billion USD. In one year. On advertisement. More than the annual development aid of most European countries. A company does this. A single company.
And so it doesn’t surprise me that everyone is constantly buying all this crap, these gimmicks, widgets and gadgets. You can erroneously claim that you may be immune to advertising, but in all honesty your are not. And why should you be? Why should you be the only one that is immune? What makes you different?
And if you still believe that you are not affected by advertisement, then look around you. What stuff do you own? What things do you really need? Which ones do you really use? Where do you eat? What do you eat? What do you drive? What clothes do you wear? How big is your house/flat? How many clothes do you have and how many do you actually wear? And so on…
The moral of this story? I would say that we need two discourses on advertisement. One, which is more fundamental: Do we really need advertisement? If I know what I need then I go into a specialized shop to buy it. And only it. And that’s it. I don’t need advertisement to tell me about all these products which are out there that I don’t need right now. However, what about products that I don’t know about now but may find useful anyway? This is informative advertisement. It would be useful as long as it simply informs me. Forget all the packaging stuff, all the plastic wrapping that has nothing to do with the product and only makes it look good so you are induced to buy it. One should buy a product for the product’s sake and not because the packaging is nice. You are anyway going to throw it away in the moment you unpacked it.
Two, should we allow preference-changing advertisement? This is entirely different to the previous advertisement. In the former case you are informed about the existence of product, in the later case you are induced into believing a product is useful for you. That’s simply messing with your mind. Most of the advertisement out there is preference-changing advertisement. And of course it works. Otherwise all these companies wouldn’t invest in it. You’ll buy, and it’ll just end in some corner of your flat. But you bought it, and the wheels kept turning… Your money is now someone’s else money, and the only difference is that you’ll need to buy a new cupboard to hold all the additional stuff that you bought and will never use. And this is where Walmart jumps in. Walmart spends annually 2.4 billion USD on advertisement. And so it goes.
When I read your post, I was wondering how many psychologists work for advertising companies, and how much research has gone into nudging, or how much nudging is used by advertising companies.If they do it so well how do we know we have or haven’t been influenced by ads? Are we immune if we don’t end up buying certain products or will we always be influenced in whatever tiny way? Well, these are just thoughts…
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It’s interesting that you mention both Coca Cola and Facebook. Coca Cola relies on advertising to sell useless products such as carbonated aqueous solutions of sucrose and bottled tap water. Facebook pretends to exist to connect the world while its true mission is subservient to advertisers and to anyone else who wants to buy personal data. It took over 100 years for enough of the public to realise that Coke’s products are of questionable value and for its 180 billion dollar market cap to stagnate. How long will it take for Facebook, the richest weed of the internet, to be plucked out ?
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