Monday, June 27, 2011

Thoughts on Targeted Ads & MS

Ever since I liked The National MS Society on Facebook, I've been noticing tons of MS-themed ads peppering the sides of the site. In case you're not familiar with the concept, this is an example of targeted advertising, wherein data is collected about people in order for businesses to "target" potential customers in their target markets. This is a cost-effective strategy for businesses. Someone selling maternity clothes, for example, ideally wants to advertise primarily to/at pregnant women. Another example is if you visit a particular website, you might notice that ads for that website (or product you were looking at) will show up on the sides of other websites over the next few weeks. The site wants to keep their product or name in your mind.

Targeted advertising tends to stir some people up. The main issue these people have is about privacy. They don't like the idea that data is being collected about them and that the data can be used in attempts to manipulate them. My feelings on the subject are mixed. I absolutely recognize the business perspective. It makes sense to prefer to direct your ads at those most likely to be interested in what you are advertising. I also recognize this as a positive from the perspective of a customer. I don't want to see ads for products or services that have zero interest for me, and I sometimes want to see ads for things I'm in the market for. (Other times, of course, I'd prefer to see no ads at all!)

The huge number of MS-themed Facebook ads, though, have left me feeling a little uneasy or annoyed. The first ones I noticed were a constant presence for months, and I still see them quite a bit - those advertising the famed liberation procedure for CCSVI. Now, I have tried not to form an official opinion about the whole CCSVI thing. I'm very interested in the research being done and I will continue to pay attention to the issue. However, I certainly have reservations. These are based almost entirely, for better or worse, on the rhetoric that so many of the proponents of the theory use. I find it off-putting and suspect. I've been working hard to temper these negative feelings, but it doesn't help the situation at all to constantly see these Facebook ads, which, if anything, make the whole thing seem that much less credible to me. I mean, isn't there something a little ridiculous about an ad on a social network for a medical procedure like this?

Getting Liberated with Facebook

I'm also annoyed to see ads offering miracle cures or other such nonsense, like those that follow. I say this without having actually looked at the sources advertised. I'm making assumptions here, but I don't think they are unreasonable.

the answers you've been looking for, thanks to FB!
However, many of the ads I've been seeing fall into that category that I see as a positive to both businesses or organizations and consumers, like those that follow. I don't at all mind seeing ads for MS-related products like cooling vests or ads for various MS fundraising events or ads for MS resources.

MS resources advertised on Facebook

I do, though, have some concerns in regards to privacy and data collection and all of that. While I'm relatively open about having MS in many parts of my life, I'm not sure that I want there to be that MS patient piece of data floating around about me. It's important to note that I've never described myself as such on the social network - all I did to spur this constant barrage of ads was like the MS Society. So, presumably my brother and others who have also liked the MS Society's Facebook page but don't have MS, are also seeing these ads. (I know my brother reads this blog, so please comment and let us know if you have noticed any!) I haven't liked all that many organizations or businesses, and I don't really share very much information about myself on Facebook, so maybe I just notice what seems like a ridiculous amount of MS-themed ads because I haven't given them that much else to work with other than that I'm a young female who likes music and has some sort of connection to the MS Society. Maybe I'm partially bothered because I don't like the constant visual reminder that I have MS every time I visit the site, because I'm aware of that fact too much as it is.

So, enough of my ramblings on the subject. What do YOU think about targeted advertising in general and especially about targeted ads and MS? Do you notice MS themed ads often on Facebook or other websites? Are you concerned about how data related to your health is collected and used?

1 comment:

Garrett said...

I usually am pretty good about ignoring ads, but now that you mention it I think I have seen some MS-related ads on facebook.