I won’t bore you with the stats, we all know that we are bombarded with advertising everywhere we look. We also know that we are being targeted better and better by advertisers wanting to part us from our money. When I was on Yahoo Mail, I was always targeted by my last name: Truss… So, I got advertising about bridge and bra supports. Google knows I’m an educator and targets me a bit better.

Now advertisers are getting really good! So how good is really good? How well can advertisers influence our purchasing power? Our attitudes? Our thoughts? Check out this clever clip: Derren Brown – Subliminal Advertising to see just how influential ‘suggestions’ can be. If you don’t like spoilers then you better watch the video before reading further.

Derren Brown goes to great lengths to visually bombard two professional advertisers with images and suggestions and then gives them an assignment to create advertising for a fictitious product. After they are done, he shows them his advertising that he did in advance, which is remarkably similar to the ones these two ‘professionals’ came up with. Derren Brown completely manipulated their environment to produce an outcome he wanted.

It’s nothing new that we are the targets of advertising. And it’s nothing new that advertisers are getting better at targeting us. But now I’ve learned via The New York Times that:

“…companies like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft let advertisers buy ads in the milliseconds between the time someone enters a site’s Web address and the moment the page appears. The technology, called real-time bidding, allows advertisers to examine site visitors one by one and bid to serve them ads almost instantly.

…A consumer would barely notice the shift, except that ads might seem more relevant to exactly what they are shopping for. It is another way in which marketers are massaging information…

…you can be auctioned off in 12 milliseconds or less…”

Do you see the shift? Advertising has always been about getting us to buy a product… now we are the product. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, eBay, Facebook and any other company that stores, and thus controls, information about us are selling US!

Our individualized attention is being sold to the highest bidder. We are the product.

What I find concerning about this is that we are engaging more and more with companies selling us as the product. Furthermore, advertising that is directed at us has become more and more personalized and personal. I have to wonder how much of what we will think, and what we will do, in the future will be dictated by who can bid the highest price to sell their influence to us? To product you?


Images: ‘my life’s logos v.2’ by captcreate and ‘stencil you are the product’ by zen

Article: ‘Instant Ads Set the Pace on the Web’ by Stephanie Clifford

Related post: What did I do B.G. – Before Google?

5 comments on “Product You

  1. David,

    A very interesting post. Technology has allowed us to leave an amazing trail of information about ourselves and our interest. The hard part is knowing when we are being manipulated by the media and not forming our own opinion.


  2. Jim,

    So true! Your comment reminded me of another Derren Brown video that shows just how manipulated we can be. This isn’t just parlor tricks either, a number of years ago I took a course that explained some of the strategies he uses and they are very powerful forms of influence!


    As you know, I harped on the idea of being blocked at school just a couple posts ago… (Thanks so much for your comment there too!)

    Here is a comment that I added after yours which gives download suggestions so that you can bring videos to a ‘blocked’ school… though I’m sure your real intent of the comment was just to make a (very good) point! 🙂

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