Most of the time, targeted ads are pretty harmless. Searched for a flight to Denver? Here are some hotels in Denver. Are you looking for new running sneakers? Here are a few options.
Corn a new “study” of the marketing company DOCTORATE recommends a strategy that goes beyond the line of simple targeting to outright predatory, explicitly advising brands to capture times of the day and week when women feel least secure about their bodies and overall appearance in order to sell cosmetics and other goods.
Women, according to the study, feel less attractive on Mondays, especially in the morning. So, as the release explains, “Monday becomes the day to encourage the beauty consumer to feel beautiful again, so marketing messages should focus on feeling smart, beauty / fashion fixes snapshots, and planning and doing things. Focus media during key moments of vulnerability, aligning with content involving tips and tricks, instant beauty rescues, dressing for success, organizing for the week and stimulating stories. âYuck.
To support this approach, described as an âencouragementâ * strategy, marketers should deploy a complementary âempowermentâ phase on Thursdays, when women are expected to feel better. âThursdays provide prime opportunities for in-store marketing messages and promotional activities around celebrating the best beauty looks, weekend clothing and shopping meetings,â the study happily advises.
And, if the calendar announces for the time of the week when the women in general feeling a little bad about themselves isn’t disgusting enough, the study hints at an even more cynical possibility: women can feel bad about themselves at any time! In particular, the study finds, when they are stressed, sick or crying. The good news: This means that there are great opportunities for brands throughout the week, if only they could know when a woman is stressed, sick or crying, as perhaps evidenced by the texts of their cats and their emails. We can all look forward to this happy day.
a adweek infographic (used with permission) provides a good summary of “results”:
Is this a parody? Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the case.
Rather, it is an unfortunately perfect example of the troubling possibilities offered by online data tracking – not an abstract âgoosebumpsâ feeling, but an ability to exploit people’s vulnerabilities for profit.
This is the argument of University of Washington law professor Ryan Calo. As he put it in a recent article:
The digitization of commerce is dramatically changing the ability of businesses to influence consumers on a personal level. A specific set of emerging technologies and techniques will allow companies to discover and exploit the limits of each individual consumer’s ability to pursue their own best interests. Businesses will increasingly be able to trigger consumer irrationality or vulnerability, resulting in real and perceived harm that challenges the limits of consumer protection law, but which regulators can do little ignore.
Targeting women at their most precarious level seems to be successful.
Of course, any advertising worth its salt is targeted (eg, beauty products in women’s magazines, automotive ads in the automotive section), but Calo maintains that the type of targeting allowed by the internet is categorically different. “Advertisers can only reach the most vulnerable if they can reach them virtually anytime,” he explained to me via email. For most of us, the internet provides this opportunity, and even when we’re not in front of a computer, we tend to have our phones with us. “The woman who (apparently, according to research) feels bad about herself in the morning,” he wrote, “may receive an instant text message from a company offering a” beauty “product.”
On the bright side, by the time Thursday arrives, she’ll be receiving a bunch of thought-provoking texts on some great outing outfits. Hooray.