Do You Slow Down At a Metered Intersection? Why It Might Matter to Tech Companies

Recently, the Baton Rouge traffic and safety folks decided to test the traffic in our neighborhood, because they had been getting a lot of complaints about people entering the neighborhood. It was fairly obvious when their monitoring began, because there were black monitoring strips across the road.

As you might have guessed, after a few months of this, the monitoring showed that there really weren’t a lot of people speeding through the neighborhood.

Is that because the complaints were inaccurate? Maybe. But let’s assume maybe something else was at play, and that is, when you see a couple of black monitoring strips in the street ahead, you slow down. It’s human nature. I live in the neighborhood. I knew they were doing a traffic study, not looking to ticket people, and I still slowed down. It’s what we do when we think someone is watching. We act differently. We adapt to the change in our environment created by the presence of monitors.

Why am I writing about this here? Because as I contemplated the traffic survey results, it occurred to me that much of what tech companies, adtech companies, AI, etc. do involves watching how people act online. What we click on, who we follow, what we like, etc. all becomes part of “targeting”. Once upon a time, they may have been able to do that, but now that we all know we’re being tracked, are we truly acting how we would normally act?

Let’s take a couple of examples:

Consumers Are Becoming Wise to Your Nudge – I mean when there’s even a Trivago commercial that pokes fun at the “only 1 room left” nudge on hotel websites, it’s jumped the shark. Why? Because we know you’re tracking us, trying to get us to commit to booking right now, before we research other sites, and because we know that is why we are seeing that message, we stopped responding to it.

New Study Shows That All This Ad Targeting Doesn’t Work That Well – yes this is just one study, and it’s premature to really draw a ton of conclusions from it. But, adtech is more and more being based on data from yesterday. As I’ve mentioned before, Facebook ads pushing me to buy tickets to a concert that I’ve already bought tickets for when I was searching for it yesterday, are pointless. That’s one data point, but as the technology is analyzing millions of data points from yesterday, how much of it is outdated? As a blogger, and social media user, I’m always looking at what resonates with people, what doesn’t etc. and it changes. And I’m not really tracking anyone individually. We learn more and more every day about how much Facebook and Google are tracking everything we do, and how that correlates into what we see on their platforms. How does that affect how we respond to their nudges? And, the more we become aware of why we are seeing certain things, how does our online behavior change?

Most importantly, can the AI that drives adtech, change along with us? Or will it reach a point where tracking isn’t worth doing any more because we, as users of the internet, have adjusted to it? As an advertiser, buying from these businesses, can you guarantee they are providing the truly targeted audience you think you want, or are they providing an audience based on old information and behavior?

That could lead to a lot of wasted ad dollars if they can’t keep up.


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