Like many people in my immediate networks, I think behavioural advertising is rotting the web. It’s the reason that I have four different privacy-focused extensions in my web browser and use a privacy-focused web browser on my smartphone.
As a result, when I go start looking for some new running shoes, as I have this week, some that I considered buying yesterday don’t ‘follow me around the web’ today, popping up in other sites and tempting me to buy them.
The political implications of this behavioural advertising are increasingly well-known after the surprise results of the US Presidental election and Brexit a few years ago. Advertisers participate in real-time auctions for access to particular demographics.
But what’s less well-known, and just as important, is what happens to the losers of the realtime auctions when you visit a site.
Say you visit the Washington Post. Dozens of brokers bid on the chance to advertise to you. All but one of them loses the auction. But every one of those losers gets to add a tag to its dossier on you: “Washington Post reader.”
Advertising on the Washington Post is expensive. “Washington Post reader” is a valuable category unto itself: a lot of blue-chip firms will draw up marketing plans that say, “Make sure we tell Washington Post readers about this product!”
Here’s the thing: the companies want to advertise to Washington Post readers, but they don’t care about advertising in the Washington Post. And now there are dozens of auction “losers” who can sell the right to advertise to you, as a Post reader, when you visit cheaper sites.
When you click through one of those dreadful “Here’s 22 reasons to put a rubber band on your hotel room’s door handle” websites, every one of those 22 pages can be sold to advertisers who want to reach Post readers, at a fraction of what the Post charges.
I played around with Twitter analytics when it launched and found it pretty fascinating. However, I started to become a bit too obsessed with ‘engagement’ and put it to one side. At the end of the day, I’m not actually that bothered how many people follow me. It’s all about the exchange of ideas and having a rich information environment.
What this morning’s activity did do was give me a nudge down the path of trying out Twitter ads. I been considering it for a while and so decided to bite the bullet and set up three promoted tweets. They will show in people’s timelines over the weekend and all point towards my ebook, The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies:
As you can see, I’ve set up three different promoted tweets with the same image but slightly different text and calls to action (Learn / Order / View). I’ve put $50 in the pot – $25 split between Saturday and Sunday – and limited the target audience to English. Specifying areas/localities to target is mandatory, so I went with UK, USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. For some reason I couldn’t specify India?
This is an experiment. Would I like more people to read my book? Absolutely. But it’s not just about that. The main thing here is playing with Twitter ads so I know how (if!) they work. After Gumroad’s commission and the 10% discount, I need less than 10 additional people to buy my ebook to break even. I’ll let you know the outcome. 🙂