Whose context [ ads ] ?

There's a whole bunch of efforts out there around independent contextual-ads platforms - on the phone, on the web. By definition, these create a context from the content they attach the ad to, and deliver an appropriate one (after ensuring relevance, monetization priority and hopefully some amount of distribution fairness).

Here's a thought to ponder upon : how many clicks happen because of forwarded links, how many uninteresting mails does one receive, and how often have you seen pesky messages SMS'd to you ? Even amongst the "interesting" ones, arent there many which you are curious about, but by no yardstick would they figure in your "interests" list - and definitely not as a consumer!

What else counts ?
  • Your history. The stuff you generally do - over years, and over the last season. Are you a traveller, shopper, movie junkie, gizmo fan ?
  • Your interest patterns. Do you eat out at "big" places about twice a month ? A weekend vacation every 3 ?
  • Your social patterns. {Wraps}
  • Your self image. What you see yourself as! Hmm, this is a real toughie.
Ok, whats the point ?

Well, contextual ads are not from "your" context. They reflect, more or less, a point in time - not who you are and what you do. So the click throughs suck, and the ads irritate.

A major "lifestyle-credit-card" company keeps sending me messages about theatre, wine tours and treks. Truth be told, I've never done any of these seriosuly, but hope to start "next weekend". So the ads work, and keep me keen. They are not irritating at all.

Privacy ?

Oh well, thats a totally orthogonal set of issues to consider. I guess if the data is ONLY used for ensuring you get more "info-mercials" than plain hardsell, actually find it useful, and the data's never given out for any other uses, its a start. At the end of the day, I do buy the TOI because a lot of advertisers on it push stuff relevant to my life cause there's a lot of readers like me who read it! Virtuous/vicious ? Cycle, for sure.

In all, there's more to context than has been done so far. Through zook, we may start scratching the next layer under the surface soon, and there's surely a lot many speedbreakers. But the journey towards "user friendly advertising" is certainly very promising.

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