OK, this is my first toe-dip into rant-mode on the blog.

According to various news articles, such as this one (apologies if you get the same really annoying ad that I did when I tested the link – another rant for another day…), MSN is debuting a new advertising mechanism ‘Adcenter’ that will enable advertisers target users based on demographics such as age, gender and location. Depressingly, some analysts seem to think this is a good thing.


The most annoying fact about ALL advertising mediums, with the sole exception of Google’s process, is their attempt to bucket us into demographic groups. Every holiday period, the print magazines have these great ways of trying to turn us all into sheep – a page of gift ideas for ‘mum’ (usually smelly scented stuff, flowers, relaxation holidays or ‘practical’ items for the house), and gift ideas for ‘dad’ *(gadgets, gizmos, fun stuff, toys, adventure days out and stuff for the car). For ‘little Johnny’, it’s the latest mechano set, for oh-so-cute ‘Janey’, it’s the latest doll complete with pram and baby care pack. AARRRGGGHHH!!!!!!

No, no, no, no, no. I don’t doubt there are plenty of people who think these suggestions are perfect for them. But we already get more than enough stereotype conditioning from every element of the media as it is. Please stick with the Google method – place ads on the page relevant to the content we are reading. If I’m looking at the page on the latest TabletPC with bluetooth accesssories, you don’t need to know that I’m a thirty-something female. Now it would be useful for you to know that I’m left-handed, then you could ship it configured for left-handed mode (yes, WindowsXP Tablet Edition can do that). Oh, and I guess the location helps – I live in the UK, that’s proper English spelling and GMT timezone please, not US-English and Seattle’s timezone 🙂 But if you can’t tell, from the content I’m choosing to view, what I might be interested in, stick with random. A little bit of serendipity makes the world a more interesting place to live in – show me an advert I didn’t expect, not the usual rubbish those market surveys predict I will want to see.

Sometimes, it feels like companies just don’t want us to buy their stuff. “What, but… you’re a woman! Should you even be in this store on your own?” Demographic advertising encourages the myth. If you don’t believe me, go visit Tom Peter’s web site or read one of his books. He’s figured it out! And he’s not alone. The guys that wrote The Cluetrain Manifesto figured it out as well – see number 2 on their list of 95 Thesis. Maybe, just maybe, the market research gurus will figure it out too one day…

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