Over at the NYTimes' Bits blog, Saul Hansell wonders how often targeted ads on Facebook or Google actually hit their mark. He uses as an example a blurb advertising the arrival in New York of a well-known musician:
Facebook knows I live near New York and that I’ve put in my profile that Béla Fleck, the jazz-bluegrass banjoist, is one of my favorite musicians. The ad was for screenings of “Throw Down Your Heart,” a movie about a trip by Mr. Fleck to Africa, where the banjo originated. This is advertising at its best. The film’s producers were telling me about something I didn’t know about and giving me a chance to buy it.
He goes on to argue that such connections are few and far between. How often do the algorithms accurately – and compellingly – interpret a user's interests?
I just don’t think there are enough cases like this to be significant. Mostly, people will see more Alpo ads even though they know their dog eats Purina Dog Chow.