Highly-targeted ads may end up hurting all advertisers

As companies hoover up more and more data about us so that advertisers can tailor their ads to highly specific demographics they may be forcing advertisers into a world where people only see a small subset of the products and services that are out there. All advertisers will have to start paying the same premium prices that targeted advertisers pay, whether their ads are targeted or not.

I’ve already noticed that Amazon has my number and because I have purchased a few dozen anime discs from them in the past I’m now starting to see more and more ads for other anime titles on all sorts of sites that have nothing to do with anime. They’ve even started to appear here on the TGDaily site (I bet most of you don’t see anime ads when you visit this site).

I don’t mind all that much since I do like anime, but it occurred to me that for every anime ad I see there is another company’s ad that I’m not seeing.

As other anime retailers start picking up on my disc buying habits I’m sure I’ll be seeing many more ads for all sorts of anime titles (that I may or may not already own). And that means I’ll be seeing fewer and fewer ads from other types of companies.

Eventually there may come a day when 90 percent of the ads I see will be for anime titles and only a small percentage of the ads I see will be for other types of movies or books or electronics.

Now this is good for the people selling ads because the advertisers who want to serve me anime ads based on my profile will have to pay more than other advertisers. And when all those other advertisers are forced off of my pages they are either going to have to pay the same premium that the targeted ads pay or slip into the giant pool of ‘everyone else’ ads that I will only see occasionally.

Advertisers who don’t pay those premiums are going to be competing with the vast number of other advertisers who don’t pay those premiums but all of them will be fighting for an ever-shrinking audience base.

And ads for local stores and restaurants that are served to my smartphone based on my GPS location are forcing out ads from other companies that just happen to be outside some preset range.

Targeted ads are going to create a kind of xenophobic village mentality. We will only see ads from the shops in our village, but not from shops in other villages. We will only see ads for things that we have bought before, not for things we haven’t bought yet. We will become more isolated and the walls around our village will get higher and higher until one day even a wandering minstrel or traveling salesman won’t be able to get inside without paying a premium.