A lot of people notice Facebook targeting ad’s to their demographics, likes and recent searches. While this is a little concerning it is considered a tradeoff for using a public social networking site. However one user got incredibly spooked when an ad was tailoured to not only his occupation but one of his secrets which he had only confided to a few people.
The victim is Roderick Russel, a professional sword swallower with difficulty swallowing pills and choosing roommates. Alongside the ad he also received an attack of personalised advertising messages that made him paranoid.
The messages were all courtesy of his roommate and marketing expert Brian Switchkow. He used Facebook’s ad targeting tools to customise the audience to one unfortunate person.
The prank also allowed Switchkow to test the boundaries of hyper-targeting. He pondered on a blog post what it would be like to have an audience of one. All it managed to achieve was spooking his roommate into believing his digital life was being tracked. His roommate even eventually stopped talking on the phone.
Although Switchkow sees some benefits in hyper-targetting, he warns marketers to be cautious. In a blog post he states, “Focused social media like this is a delicate art, and the risk of spooking the prospect is so great.”
With today’s social media tools, it seems unlikely one-to-one advertising will be used any time soon. But maybe one day hyper-targeted sword swallowing, small pill ads might pop up in everyone’s news feeds.