My Demographic

The advertisers are marketing to a composite person of a certain age. Photo: DPA/thelocal.de

Advertisers are marketing to a composite person of a certain age. Photo: DPA/thelocal.de

To advertisers, I’m not a person, but an instance of my “demographic.” I thought it would be fun to declare my actual demographic data, and then share what advertisers and recommendation sites think I should like. You can be the judge of whether they’ve got it right!

I have a detailed list of my demographics here, and I’ll take a look at a few categories.

When you are new to a social media site, the first things they figure out are your age and gender. Well, you know what I think of gender conformity! But age conformity is an interesting concept. Knowing just those two things (female, late 40s), I would probably be served ads for:

  • Health and beauty – weight loss, skin care, vitamins
  • Home and family – grocery coupons, home decor, Wal-Mart
  • Dating – the assumption would be that I was looking for a traditional older male

Based on the fact that I’m a professional person in the arts/education sector, you’d think the advertisers could target a little better than that. They must think my baser instincts will get the best of me!

Despite that almost all the Facebook pages I like are about music, their Page and Group recommendations for me are generic, such as travel and photography. Their closer matches are books, art and museums, but who doesn’t like those? 🙂 A few of their more specific ones aren’t bad matches: David Bowie, Margaret Atwood, Starbucks, and Record Store Day. Some of their choices I won’t be clicking on any time soon are horses, bacon, God, yoga and shopping malls, LOL!

I blog on WordPress, and they have recently started suggesting other blogs I might like to follow. Interestingly, they are not based on my interests or tags, but on what my readers also follow. I’m sure if I accepted their wisdom, I could tap into my audience better, but I’m a bit stubborn that way 😉  Their recommendations are mostly related to food, cooking, vegetarian and vegan sites, baking and crafts. I’m afraid that if you’d like me to cover these topics exclusively, you will be disappointed!

For me, the best recommendation site is Amazon. Their algorithm rocks! I suppose it’s because they don’t generalize, but select items related to ones you’ve already looked at. When I went to the site today, I was offered The 20th Century Art Book and the new re-mastered CD of The Smiths’ Meat is Murder – both spot on! They knew I would want the new albums by The Strokes and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Book-wise, I saw Gender Outlaw and Where Children Sleep, which were related to My Gender Workbook and Material World, which I had viewed recently.

Being a music fanatic, I can’t do better than last.fm, which analyzes all the music I play on my computer and suggests bands I’ll like. Today’s recommendations were Passion Pit, Foals, Beach House, Bombay Bicycle Club, and Asobi Seksu, all of which are right up my alley!

Sometimes generic content is just fine. I added the feeds for Design and Science on my Flipbook app, and they send out steady streams of good stuff.

An ad I'd actually like to see (Photo: NYC and Co., 2010)

An ad I’d actually like to see (Photo: NYC and Co., 2010)

Given all the topics I openly like, I am surprised that I don’t receive more ads for:

  • Humanitarian fundraising appeals
  • Books and movies
  • Restaurants
  • Eco-products
  • Pet supplies

On the other hand, I am happy not to get:

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Porn
  • Casinos
  • Orthopedic footwear
  • Funeral planning

So there are some small mercies!

Who do advertisers think you are?

Further reading:

Facebook users unwittingly revealing intimate secrets (The Guardian)

Google exposes racial discrimination in online ads delivery (RT)

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15 comments

  1. Fiona

    When I first read your “About” page, I thought it was quite brave of you to declare your demographics with such openness (but also very cool!) I’m sure it also avoids lots of prospective confusion with a blog audience.

    The targeted marketing that sometimes spooks me with it’s exactness is the ads in Gmail. I’ll send an email to someone discussing something or other…then the next time I log in there’s that small head-spin to find targeted ads served from key words in your messages. Even if it’s a bot, still feels like someone’s been reading your email!

  2. This is a fascinating post! I agree with you that Amazon must count as the best recommendation site. I often end up buying a few more books than I had originally intended just by browsing through their suggestions. I cannot stop chuckling at your final list.

    • About the final list, it’s one situation where I don’t mind too much being stereotyped – better that, than getting the target marketing for an “18-34 year old male,” for example! On the other hand, with enough targeted ads, maybe they could get me to buy sunglasses and beer 🙂

  3. You’ve just convinced both of us that the benefits of stereotyping are almost always questionable. 🙂

  4. I don’t do much on Facebook so the ads I have are mostly those that my children (who are my only “friends”) look at. I agree Amazon has the best recommendations for me. Every now and again they will send me something I have never looked at, but I think that’s to get me to look at something new. I could spend all day looking through what Amazon thinks I would like.

    As for age, why is it that marketers think that as we get old we curl up in our rocking chair and watch the world go by? Our generation is much more active than previous ones at this stage but they want to pigeon hole us into what they know rather than really taking a look at who we are.

    • True, it is time that advertisers woke up to what middle agers and young seniors actually do – it is essentially all the things that people 20-40 don’t have time for 🙂

  5. Awesome list, thoroughly enjoyable. Definitely with Fiona, gmail is a little creepy! I’ve never really used amazon, other than a few hard to find research books when I did my thesis. I should use it just to see what it’d recommend to me, as I’m not 100% convinced all my friend’s book recommendations are ‘me’.

    Speaking of funeral planning, I usually go to the gym (and watch TV) in the early afternoon – wow are there a lot of ‘funeral insurance’ ads. That, and meal services. Insane!! I love to watch TV and think ‘who do they think is watching this’ from the ads…

    • Me too. I always wince at the ones pushing prescription medications that entice the viewer to “Ask your doctor about Crestor” (or whatever).

      • Oh in Australia, that’s against the law. Prescription drugs aren’t advertised – at least never by name. It’s strange to see double sided drug ads in some North American magazines

      • I’m glad to hear that. I think it encourages people to pressure their doctors for medications that advertisers have convinced them they need.

  6. I find it creepy that I Google an item (usually not even for me but someone else I am helping out) then every page I land on after that has an advertisement for the product I Googled. Eeekk. On the other hand I am so frugal that I am probably a marketers nightmare (I don’t need a new man, I walk for my health which is free and beauty is probably a lost cause, I don’t take ANY medications, not even aspirin usually, and my favorite store is the Goodwill!). Great post!

    • Thanks, April! I am not much of a marketer’s dream either, but sometimes I do research on tablets or cameras, so that catches up to me! I always laugh when I am scoping out a gift for someone and then I get ads about it for weeks. For the past few months I have seen so many Zulily ads that I am almost tempted to click on one. Almost, but haven’t done it. They are wearing me down! And their stuff is aimed at moms with young kids!

  7. I actually have no idea. I don’t use Amazon. Facebook ads are way off base. I usually either research travel stuff for my upcoming RTW trip, OR random topics for freelance writing assignments, so Google serves up anything from hotels to social media software to me.

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