Why seduce customers when you can stalk them?

AJ Dimas-Lehndorf  September 28, 2016


I used to think that online banner advertisements were suspiciously tailored to my interests, but now I’m seeing advertisements on Facebook for shirts with my hometown, last name, place of work, and/or social insurance number already screen printed on the front. I know now that the second-rate Chinese clothier hasn’t made the hoodie yet, but the fact that it knows where I live, work, etc. is slightly disconcerting. Creepy hoodies aside, advertisements on social media can be compelling for both the consumer and the advertiser.

Advertising in traditional media is quite versatile. The advertiser can choose to do what they want with the time/space that they have. Advertisements on social media have a similar versatility, given the endless possibilities of the internet. However, I usually find that advertisements tend to mimic the posts of the social medium on which they are found. For example, an advertisement on Twitter looks just like a tweet, and an advertisement on Instagram takes the form of an image with a caption. This similarity makes the advertisements blend in, as if I already follow Papa John’s Pizza, or Beard Instructor, whatever that is. Advertisement campaigns on most social networks differ from those in traditional media in that they may rely on more posts that are concise and culturally relevant, rather than fewer advertisements that are thoroughly crafted. The posts can be tailored to specific groups, with multiple versions of the same post. Additionally, advertisers can have dynamic campaigns that are interactive, link to a website, and/or change over time.


Perhaps the most significant advantage of advertising on social media is targeting. Whereas print, radio, and television advertisements go out to broad audiences, social media advertisements can reach incredibly specific audiences. For example, I came across an advertisement for a hoodie made specifically for people raised in the little hick town where I currently live. I would never purchase a hoodie with “No matter where I roam, Devon, Alberta will always be my home” printed on the front, but someone who is actually from Devon might. Traditional advertisers, and even regular internet advertising companies can only dream of obtaining the personal information that we willingly hand over to companies like Facebook.

Another reason to advertise on social media is cost. Advertising in traditional media can be modestly expensive, like a $200.00 for a little slice of a local newspaper, to $5 million 30-second television spot during the Super Bowl, and that’s before the cost of actually producing the advertisement. In comparison, Facebook has advertising available for as little as $5.00, and claims to have advertising available for any budget, thanks to its complex bidding system. With no middlemen involved, advertising on social media is inexpensive and puts the advertiser in complete control of the advertisement. The advertiser can change things in real time, unlike traditional media.

The age of social networking has led to a new age in advertising. This new form of advertising has many benefits, but traditional media is still relevant, and the two will probably coexist for decades to come.





Photo source:

Aleksander John Dimas-Lehndorf in collaboration with Microsoft Paint and the screenshot feature on his smartphone




3 thoughts on “Why seduce customers when you can stalk them?

  1. Impressive and scary at the same time. If we are signing off access to all this information to the social media corporations and they are free to sell it to whoever is willing to pay the price, what are the possibilities for the people paying the price? Back in the day people would go through the phone book making cold calls hoping to pick up business. Now, it would seem, they can visit you at work or walk home with you.
    As a shameless plug for my own blog “Social Media: Affects or Effects?” I have to say that I don’t believe people are seeing the worst case scenarios presented with terms of service agreements that have to be accepted before gaining access to their social media site of choice. I do not honestly believe that there is enough control over social media practice with the information obtained. People today, whether they read the terms of service agreement or not, are pretty much forced to sign off because they want to communicate and be up to speed. It seems to be technological extortion. People have the choice to not to use it but can they choose not to use it?
    I love the title of this blog but it is hitting way to close to home to be a comfort.


  2. Everything I need to know about you is on that shirt! 🙂 Truly though, who doesn’t want a sweater with the mapped out photo of Alberta on it? I mean come on thats so bad ass. .. Good post Aj ❤


  3. My own browser history-based advertisements are almost hilariously inaccurate. Algorithms seem to be able to detect that my last name is French in origin, and so half of these targeted ads appear in a language that I don’t speak (or maybe that is just a result of living in Canada? Not sure if others experience this as well). Just googling the name “mario” last week flooded my Facebook newsfeed with Nintendo ads (a console that I don’t own or care to own), and googling “Canadian Stars” brought me a week’s worth of ads for Japer National Park’s Dark Sky Festival.

    They’re definitely getting more accurate all the time, but I don’t feel that these targeted ads know or understand me in any way.


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