Irregular Times logoThe Secret Subversion of Keyword Advertising:
Targeted consumers find out the truth

Oh, how I love the absurdity of Internet keyword advertising - for the entertainment value.

All over the Internet, web sites promise advertising that will be sharply targeted to the kinds of consumers (Didn't you know that's what you are? You're a consumer, so now go out an consume something, won't you?) who are most likely to want to buy their products. By linking those advertisements with keywords in related articles, these advertisers claim that there will be a much higher click-through and purchase rate.

Oh, well that sounds nice, but it doesn't always work so well.

This morning, for instance, I found a news story that links hair dye to a deadly form of cancer. The headline reads: "How deadly is hair dye?"

Then, I scan to the bottom of the page, and find an advertisement placed by "Ads by Google". The advertisement reads "Buy Hair Dye on Sale"

This is the kind of link you get when you trust a database to target your advertisements for you: Your company appears to pitch cancer-causing hair dyes to your customers. This is not exactly a positive image for your brand, even if the hair dye is on sale.

On the other hand, maybe this kind of keyword-based targeted advertising is really a big boon to us consumers (excuse me while I consume my hat). Maybe if more corporations place this kind of mis-targeted advertisement online, we find new links between their products and the damage that they're really causing.

For example, we might get a keyword advertisement for Ford in a news article that describes how Ford executives have broken their promise to the American people to increase the fuel efficiency of their automobiles.

We might get a keyword ad for the Southern Company embedded in an article about how the unscrupulous utility is the nation's worst polluter, and pays for lobbyists to cooperate with Bush Administration efforts kill environmental laws designed to keep carcinogens and climate-changing chemicals out of the air that we breathe.

We might find a keyword advertisement for Cracker Barrel right there in an report about how the "friendly" restaurant is actually has been a major campaign contributor to the Bush/Cheney campaign and other extremist right-wing politicians.

Oh, and then we could click on these advertising links, and find the consumer (all this consuming does so tire me out) relations department phone numbers and ask these corporations the tough questions that they work so hard to avoid.

Consume that, corporate marketers, all y'all.



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