In The Daily You, Joseph Turow discusses the effect of advertising methods on consumers.  Particularly, Turow draws consumers’ attention to the practice of tracking users’ movements over the internet in order to learn more about them and tailor online advertisements to their tastes.  The many online marketing efforts are central to Turow’s book.  In addition, he asserts that such a way of online marketing changes the way consumers see themselves. 

Near the beginning of the book, Turow takes a look at the way advertisers gain information about consumers through Internet activity.  Essentially, anything an Internet user clicks on is fair game for marketers.  They will use that information to find patterns in that person’s Internet activity and then strategically place ads of similar products on other webpages the user frequents.  A central topic is that of “the click,” which is a way for marketers to measure how many people took notice of their ad.  According to Turow, “The click was a tangible audience action that media buyers and advertisers could use as a vehicle to ease their historical anxiety over whether people notice their persuasive messages or, even more, care about them” (p. 36).  The usability of the click led to the selling of ads by the cost-per-thousand model, which made it even easier for marketers to analyze traits of the consumers viewing, and subsequently clicking on, their ads based on previous website visits.  Marketers are then able to decide whether a consumer is considered an appropriate target, or a waste of additional advertising dollars, because of that consumer’s tracked activity.  One such marketing company discussed in the book is a French communications company named Publicis.  Once a consumer was deemed a target based on their profile, Publicis would then ensure that person was reached by the client.  Turow (2011) says, “They would receive the client’s messages, and the audience reached would be free of waste – consumers the client didn’t care to reach” (p. 89).  According to Turow, “In their quest to separate “targets” from “waste,” marketers buy access to data about users’ backgrounds, activities, and friends that will allow them to locate customers they deem most valuable” (p. 190).  Following the description of marketers’ creation of profiles, Turow discusses the disturbing breaches of privacy such a practice can create.  An additional phenomenon in target advertising is the “long click,” which can be defined as the combination of tracking information from multiple social-media sites.  Again, the book questions possible breach of privacy laws by tracking such information and using it for third-party advertising purposes.  What’s even more disturbing, Turow notes, is the fact that the FTC actually condones the targeting and tracking of consumers, provided it is done on an opt-out basis, meaning no permission is necessary to retain information on consumers’ actions over the Internet. 

Turow also looks at the power advertising now has over content in print media.  Because the advertising industry is one of the main funding sources for periodicals, such as newspapers and magazines, they have the power to dictate what kind of content is included.  The concept also can apply to online media, as well, especially because online media is even more prevalent now and the popularity of print media is declining.  By creating personalized ad content, marketers are essentially telling the consumer who they are, what they already like, and what they should like based on that person’s “cookie” trail left via previously visited websites.  For example, Turow creates a fictional woman who marketers perceive as trendy because of the websites and companies she visits.  This perception of the woman leads marketers to send her more information on the beauty industry, but not the fast food industry.  By doing so, the advertising industry has generalized the woman and essentially told her who she should be. 

Ultimately, Turow lists recommendations essential to the everyday Internet user.  He states that it is imperative for people to be educated on Internet use, specifically beginning at a young age.  Turow’s reasoning behind such an education is simple: marketers will have less control over tracking consumer behavior over the Internet if consumers are educated about the tools they use.  Next, he suggests that laws are put in place which require marketers to disclose exactly how personalized ads were generated.  This would allow consumers to fully understand the process marketers use in order to track them.  Also, Turow proposes that Congress and the Federal Trade Commission allow consumers to opt out of third-party tracking.  Finally, it is suggested that regulations should be enforced by the government in order to stop unnecessary and intruding privacy breeches by companies insisting on competing with others. 

Reference

Turow, J. (2011). The daily you. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.