Targeted Ads – A Surveillance Story


Team Members:

  • Sarah Paterson
  • Ben Bryan
  • Daniel Leung
  • Haley Tran

As a group of four we have worked to create a video about online targeted advertising. We are all frequent users of digital media and participators in social media. As such, this is something we have all experienced on a frequent basis. Hence, the interest in exploring the topic further. Focusing on an issue that we have all experienced was an essential element to the success of this project. We immediately got the ball rolling on ideas we would like to contribute to the video.

Targeted marketing involves tracking and collecting information about an online user and then using this information to promote your business and products to the specific online profiles. This marketing and sales is becoming more frequent and is seen as being increasingly popular. For example, a personal may have been Googling corporate wear online and suddenly their Instagram and Facebook feeds are showing them advertisements for an online suit retailer. Targeted marketing and remarketing is something that the social media generation is particularly susceptible to. The four members of our group are aged between 19 and 23 and are all avid users of various social media platforms. In our videos we have explored the gender issues of targeted ads, cookies and and apps with use targeted ads. We also all admitted that we are becoming more susceptible towards targeted ads and remarketing, so we have attempted to explore the successes and failures of different methods of targeted ads.

Perhaps, most importantly, we have also explored how targeted ads make people feel. Obviously, targeted ads and the potential invasion of privacy conjures many feelings in the people who are susceptible privy to it. We have tried to explore the varying emotions that people can feel. To do this, we have included small skits with potential reactions at differing ends of the spectrum. In the first skit, the people feel positively that Facebook has provided them with an advertisement that matches their prior searches. It is viewed as convenient and well advised by the social media site. In the second skit, the person is upset at the suggestion by Facebook of a sponsored post. She feels as it is an invasion of privacy and explains one of our core questions ‘how do they know this about me?’ Although these skits are casual and comical they are able to display the varying emotions that individuals feel. We suspect that most people fall in the middle of this spectrum.

As targeting advertising online is a very broad topic, we secondly focused on the contents of our video. The conclusion we came to is that each team member should focus on something that interests them in regards to targeted ads. We decided to work on the principle that we will all produce better work if we focus on something we find interesting and will enjoy researching. For example, Ben was interested in researching how gender ties into targeted ads. We believe that Ben’s kean interest has contributed to our video in an outstanding manner. Pursuing your interests has been an essential part of our group work.

Daniel was also very much inclined to direct the video and had a strong sense of how to introduce our topic in a lighthearted manner. As a group we had shared emails early in the piece deciding to keep the video comical and light. Daniel’s vision played into our wishing perfectly. As mentioned above, we have explored the feelings that people have been they encounter targeted advertising – although they may not know exactly what it is. Daniel’s vision of exploring people’s feelings in a comical way allowed us to demonstrate a serious issue in a lighthearted manner. After Daniel suggested exploring differing emotions, we all brainstormed potential conversations – the idea of James’ 21st was born. Again, having our team members do the roles they were eager to do, has made the process much easier and more enjoyable.  and increased the communication of our video.

In terms of the medium, we debated to and for about the how to present the more informative sections of the video. We discussed the merits of audio tracks for information heavy sections. We also explored the possibility of storytelling via images to match an audio track. Ultimately we wanted to present a video that was attractive and cohesive. With that in mind, we decided that filming ourselves speaking would achieve this goal. To facilitate this, we meet up for the filming. This allowed us to get consistent imagery and audio, as well as ensuring that our different interests and sections flowed freely. Although we has all contributed and edited each other’s scripts, we were presented with a challenge when we went to read them together. We found that they did not flow as well as we would have liked. Fortunately, being face to face during this time allowed us to make small tweaks to improve the continuity and triple check all elements of our script.

We did encounter some difficulties in the planning of this video. We found that communicating online is extremely convenient for four very different schedules. However, online communication via Twitter and online messaging often lead to delayed or difficult decision making. Although we all contributed lots of ideas and were active online, final decisions about division of tasks and video aspects were not decided. This was eventually overcome by holding a Facetime meeting. Discussing issues and ideas in real time was an extremely helpful tactic for pushing our group work forward.

Overall, our group is very happy with the work we produced and feel that we have created an informative video. We feel we have worked well as a group, while learning about and presenting ideas we are interested about as individuals.


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