Targeting Follies: Youtube Thinks I'm A Woman, Web Sites Think I Should Hire Myself

So the Republican convention is behind us, and the Dems are about to start in Philadelphia. Don’t worry, this post is not about politics.

I traveled quite a bit last week, and so had not really kept up with how the late-night shows had covered the convention. Also, late-night TV is way past my bedtime because I am old as dirt. So I turned to the trusted Interweb to catch up with Stephen Colbert, James Corden, Samantha Bee, Bill Maher and assorted others.

It was no problem finding the highlights I had heard about on social media and elsewhere via my interactive TV and its YouTube interface. But once I got started, I was surprised to learn that Google thinks I am a woman — and one who could do with some new  make-up, tampons and women’s energy drinks. I was served Maybelline, Tampax and Ensure ads, not once but multiple times.

This shouldn't come as a total surprise. My wife is a coach for women in midlife, and I am the unofficial proofreader for her blog. This means I am frequently on a Web site for women-of-a-certain-age. So you could argue that the Google was doing its job really well, targeting me on the basis of my most recent activity.



But I would argue that Google was doing a really crappy job. I have a Google Plus profile connected to all my other Google products, and I use a lot of its services (Gmail for personal email and for our business, Google Drive, YouTube, Chrome, Search, etc.). So from all of that, Google should be able to deduce that I am not a woman of-a-certain-age.

The second reason Google was doing a crappy job is because I was served the same ads over and over and over again. And, yes, I understand that Google is not really serving me these ads, but an intricate mess of ad servers, programmatic algorithms and assorted middlemen.

But I am placing the blame on Google (YouTube), because that’s where I was doing my viewing. I bet that the average viewer seeing the same ads I did, but with less or no knowledge of the machinery behind the ad placement, would have installed an ad blocker faster than you can say “irrelevant.”

And that’s no good for YouTube. Even if we accept that I was served ads based on recent Web site visits, it still does not make sense to carpet-bomb my online viewing with a multiplicity of the same irrelevant content.

I would tell the marketing managers of Ensure, Tampax and Maybelline to negotiate some discounts with whoever is doing the targeting for them, because they are missing the mark and then some.

To add insult to injury to the mess that is (re)targeting, a couple of Web sites I visited when back behind my desk served me ads for my own business.

Again, I understand that the algorithm is trying to keep up with my erratic Web behavior (one minute I am a woman in midlife, the next I am a marketer interested in change management). But, really: We are giving consumers plenty of reasons to tune out and block out our stupid race to the bottom.

Change management is what I do. I think I need to address some basics…

2 comments about "Targeting Follies: Youtube Thinks I'm A Woman, Web Sites Think I Should Hire Myself".
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  1. Kim Garretson from RealizingInnovation, July 25, 2016 at 1:44 p.m.

    Maarten, have you seen your dashboard for the ad topics Google thinks you'll like? It's usually way off, but at least you can unclick some of the stranger 'guesses' it makes. Good luck. Try going to:

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, July 25, 2016 at 8:06 p.m.

    Make sure that they never know you so you do not ever become a "Go" target. Note: A "Go" target can be an advertising - advertising works - target for anything. You know that old repeat even lies frequently and cleverly in some cases and people will believe anything. 

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