During a large part of the time in which I was a reporting analyst for the company I work for, I was part of the marketing department. I find this to be amusing, because most of what this marketing department did for marketing was seek to buy leads and calls rather than engage in direct advertising. As a result, we do a lot of business without the identity of the business being all that important or all that well-known to others. However, the experience did lead me to be more interested in noticing marketing, both in its obvious aspects and its less than obvious ones. In that light, I would like to comment today on one of the most important aspects of marketing, and one that appears to have suffered mightily in the internet age, and that is knowing your audience.
At least judging by my own personal experience, advertising in the internet age is by no means an easy task. Most of us have something to market. I’m a writer, for example, and I have my writings to market, be they book reviews or sermonettes or personal essays or even creative writings like poetry, plays, and novels. Most of the people I know have some sort of side gig, whether they are selling essential oils or artists or reselling used goods on ebay or involved in multi-level marketing schemes or something of the kind. Given that many of the free websites we use rely on advertising revenue to be profitable, it is entirely unsurprising that a world in which nearly everyone it seems has some sort of side gig would be a place where nearly everywhere one went there were people trying to market to you, each of them had their own patreon account or some other way in which you could be asked to support them. We’re all in the same boat, it seems, in that regard.
But there are some ways that clearly do not succeed when it comes to marketing. One of the lures of data collection–a field I work in, it should be noted–is that the collection of data and its analysis can allow people to make better decisions about who to market to in the hope of better profits. In my experience, these hopes have not been realized when it comes to online advertising. In fact, I think it would be worthwhile for us to examine the many ways that online advertising has failed to adequately target and what these failures suggest about the problems of online marketing. Perhaps someone smarter than I am may even find ways of making this process work better than it now does. At any rate, let us take a look at some of the ways in which marketers fail to meet their audience, using myself as a test case here, to illustrate the many ways this can happen.
For one, I have found that advertisers tend to market items to me that I already buy. How does this happen? Well, when I go online to post reviews of products I have either already purchased or, more commonly, received pro bono in exchange for an honest review, I often find advertisements trying to sell me things I already own. This tells me that marketers are often too superficial in their information gathering. To see someone as clicking on a page as being susceptible to advertising on the product that one has looked at is a bit misguided when someone clicks on that page for the purpose of leaving a review. How one is to differentiate between impressions from someone looking for a product and those who already have the product would appear to be worthwhile, so having a deeper knowledge of behavior than page impressions would be good–since these pages have buttons to click to leave a review, perhaps when that button is clicked, the impression can be counted differently so that one does not market goods that someone already has an opinion on.
This matter of knowing the beliefs and opinions of others would help when it comes to another set of advertising I have gotten a lot recently to my annoyance. For whatever reason–and I’m not sure what it is–I get a lot of advertisements for pork. Now, those who are aware of my belief system when it comes to clean and unclean meats  and my own eating habits will know that pork is not the most obvious product to try to sell to me. Yet not only am I bombarded by advertisements for pork by youtube, advertisements that I regularly skip and would give thumbs down to if I could to even more strongly discourage them, but even when I am on regular websites I get advertisements for sausage and cold cuts. I do not buy these products. I do buy sliced turkey and chicken on occasion to make sandwiches, and I buy turkey and cheddar sandwiches from my local grocery store on a regular basis for work lunches, but pork is not a product you are going to be able to sell to me. To even try is to insult. Since I’m not sure how this particular product got to be marketed to me, I’m not sure what can be done about it.
At other times marketers fail by making the wrong assumptions about people. Now, as a fairly obvious single person, I get a lot of advertisements for dating websites. Most of the time I am not bothered by this, but rather amused. I get websites for Asian girls, Russian and Ukrainian girls, Latinas, Musilm women, Jewish women, European women, conservative women, people who are overweight, people who are over forty, and so on. While I do not have any interest in most of the sites, I am aware that they are offering something I am indeed potentially interested in. Yet I also get an alarmingly large amount of direct advertising from Ashley Madison, a site that seeks to appeal to those already married or in a committed relationship to cheat. Now, there are several aspects of this marketing that deeply bother me. For one, I find it offensive to market infidelity, as loyalty to relationships is something that matters a great deal to me. For another, it is extremely perverse to advertise a website to cheating to someone who has not been in a relationship for quite some time. I wouldn’t want to defraud any potential paramours by pretending to be dating someone so that they could have the illusion of being lovely enough to steal my time and affection away from someone else when they could just seek it openly for themselves. In addition to this, I feel a sense of compassion for the lovely and generally scantily clad ladies on the web advertisements that they want to be someone’s other woman instead of being someone’s only one, if indeed they consented to their photographs being used for such a purpose.
My own personal experience with advertising suggests that a lot of advertisements miss the mark for a variety of reasons. For one, people may market what people already have and do not need more copies of. As I am not attempting at this time to be a book distributor, I do not need multiple copies of the same books. For another, people market things that they do not realize I have no interest in buying. Pork certainly qualifies here, as do advertisements I get about “saving Roe vs. Wade” as if I wanted to do such an abhorrent thing, and other leftist political causes. Being offered something that one views as abhorrent and abominable is not generally a successful marketing technique. Likewise, it is important to understand the assumptions of marketing, in that one may market something inappropriately and not merely wickedly. My own experience being offered things I do not want and do not need on a regular basis, even being sold things that I find abhorrent and offensive, suggests that websites need to do a better job at qualifying people before advertising to them.
 See, for example: