Facebook Home Page
photo: mikethewebguy

At lunch yesterday, a friend asked me why the current trend in advertising is skewing digital? I almost choked on my sandwich while attempting to come up with my reply. Digital advertising is a BIG question that can't be answered in one sentence, but I will try: as our society moves to a "digital age" advertisers are trying to follow us.

I think the larger part of this topic has less to do with "advertising" as it does with "privacy." For example, my friend was somewhat shocked to learn how Facebook collects YOUR "user data" to sell to advertisers as they target their messages. YouTube (Google) has been geo-targeting (pushing ads to visitors based on their home zip code not the location of their IP address - that's why you see ads for the 518 when you check websites while standing in line at Disney World) ads for years.

How do you feel about "ads" on your phone?That's really question we should be asking. I think Americans love their smartphones more than our cars. We are so protective and possessive of our devices that anything that makes its way on to our screen without our permission immediately is flagged as an intruder. You're laughing but I've seen your face when a pop up ad covers your screen. It's not a pretty sight. The World Wide Web is a permission based medium, by that I mean, as users we expect to be asked before our device is overtaken/hijacked with an ad. Yes, the web has some civility.

For the most part, web users accept ads on sites and social media. We understand that companies need to make money to continue to make cool things for us. But there is a serious line that is crossed when an ad somehow finds it's way amongst our protected content - where it doesn't belong. Native ads on Facebook and Twitter would be the current example of "sponsored" posts that catch our eye as we scan through our news feeds. I'm pretty sure we shared the same reaction when we saw an ad sandwiched in between posts of a friend's dinner plans and another friend's picture of their cat. "What was that?"

As our society moves to a digital age advertisers are going to follow us. Advertising is a part of our free-market, heck, I'd even argue that its part of our "un-alienable rights" as a democracy. But there is difference between an ad "SAVE 20% OFF RIGHT NOW, THIS SECOND, IT'S HAPPENING NOOOOWWWWWWW! BUY, BUY, BUY!" and a deal, "Come inside for a free small coffee and a kitten." The latest example I can point to back up my outrageous claim comes this week from Foursquare, who is now working with ad-tech company Turn to allow advertisers to use Foursquare's location data to retarget to, guess who: YOU. Foursquare has over 3.5 billion check-ins, a few that you and I have contributed to.

If you have a problem with "pop-up" ads taking over your phone's screen, just wait until you're walking through Crossgates and an ad from the "Dead Sea Lotion" kiosk next to you hits your screen before you can avoid the salesperson with the free samples.