September 3, 2008

A cautionary tale about Facebook ad targeting

Washington Post writer Rachel Beckman complains that Facebook inundated her with ads accusing her of being fat and then, when she got engaged, warned her of being a “fat bride”. Now, although she’s newly married or about to be, Facebook is (obviously prematurely) advertising fertility treatments to her.

It’s just the early days, but this sort of thing is bound to create backlash. I don’t think there’s going to be a resolution until people can create profiles so detailed that, for example, they contain the fact that you disapprove of ads about weight-loss aids.

In the short term, e-commerce software vendors should be thinking about how to create UIs that offer most of the benefit of this kind of targeting, but without giving offense.

Sigh. I guess today’s my day for writing about offensive marketing.


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