Sunday, March 24, 2013

John Hegarty: "To those brands that say 'I understand you' I say 'Fuck off'"

I am being followed around the internet by a pair of yellow adidas trainers.

It all started when I checked them out on the adidas website; they are now convinced that I am interested in them, and are basically stalking me.

This theme has upset John Hegarty.

He participated in a "Wired Global Conversation" panel last week, and revealed a contrarian view on big data, nicely written up here.

"I'm not sure I want people to know who I am," said John. "I find that slightly Orwellian and I object to it... I think there'll be a huge backlash."

I don't really agree with him on this. I mean, if there has to be an ad on the webpage I am reading, it might as well be for something I'm interested in.

But John then broadens his theme. He sees targeted web ads as being just part of a bigger problem - marketers' obsession with 'understanding' the consumer. And that's when he drops the F-bomb:

"To those brands that say 'I understand you' I say 'Fuck off, you don't understand me. Mind your own business, I don't want to be understood by you. I don't understand myself sometimes… and it can be fun.'" 

I guess his point is similar to the old Henry Ford one - "If I'd asked the customer what he wanted, he would have said 'a faster horse.'"

But John is being cheeky really. He knows full well the importance of understanding the consumer - is in fact a master of it - and you can see that in his work, which is always based on sound logic.

John's just trying to remind us that while we always start with logic, the job of advertising is to turn it into magic.

By the way, what do you think of the shoes? They're starting to grow on me.



Jeremy said...

I don't really like the shoes that much. For $150 I think you can do better.

Jake said...

I'd go the black. The yellow is a little too garish.

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed that post. One of my friend started at a small agency called Deepend and since I checked their website, their banners are following me everywhere.
I don't need them, it's annoying and they are not even nice to look at....

Regarding the shoes I'm more into black or white as I don't want to be mistaken with the traffic light when I'm walk...running. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Can someone remind this guy he's in advertising. Clients pay us to understand and inspire action in consumers. We're not just hired to write puns anymore.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that's what John meant. I genuinely think he meant to say "Fuck off." Why? Because targeted advertising is an inaccurate form of categorising. I once checked out Fitness First's website (checking the price, which is WAY too expensive btw) and now I get followed by these FF ads!

In many ways they create a negative impact: I'm far too complex for you to try and understand me and my purchase decisions. By slapping your company's ads on every page I go to all you do is rob me of the opportunity to discover your brand in an interesting, relavent and engaging way, and make me dislike you even more because now you're pestering me. It's like my vegan friend pestering me to try and not eat meat for a change, again and again.

Seeing how I'm on Facebook when your ads keep cropping up I might just go and create some negative publicity and share it with everyone with eyes.

Anonymous said...

I honestly couldn't tell you whether I was being followed around by a particular banner ad as I don't look at banners or online ads.

They're the digital equivalent of Pizza delivery leaflets stuffed in my real world letterbox at home.

Scamp said...

I guess it's because the shoes are bright yellow... they do tend to catch the eye!

Anonymous said...

Agree, I do not want a brand to understand me. As John said, how can they know me, if sometimes I do not know myself.

If we want, we will seek out. Put it in our face is a huge put off.

A brand needs to engage, not stalk.

Clients will learn and start to bring back more traditional advertising - Print/TV/Cinema.

This digital invasion is that, an invasion.

Anonymous said...

i really wish i hadn't looked at those anal love beads's really embarrassing when my boss looks at my computer over my shoulder.... and sees the banner ads.

With regards to those shoes i wouldn't simon.

We owe each other beers . finally.

you know who i am.


Anonymous said...

As a consumer I now go to quite an effort not to be stalked by brands - I private browse, I delete cookies, I frequently and deliberately enter the wrong postcode or the wrong gender into forms and I never connect my online identities. I find the attempts to connect and understand me both irritating and unnecssary - I know how the web works and when I want a product I know how to come find you: optimise your search words and give me a good experience on your website, that's all I want from you. I don't need your understanding.

Rangga said...

First, I'd get the shoes. They look fun.

Second, yes, targeted ads are getting more annoying than eve; I can't do researches without being "followed" by the subject even weeks afterwards.

I think I'm just going to google anything about cats for a couple of hours so I will have cats everywhere I browse.

Or puppies.

MK said...

Weren't you debating whether to purchase these shoes back in early 2012?

Scamp said...

I was! Actually the Y3 version. Didn't pull the trigger, because my mate in the office next door had them. But now we work at different agencies I reckon it's okay.

JD said...

I hate targeted ads for the same reason I don't read the same book twice: I feel like I'm missing lots of more interesting ads.

If you ever want to troll a coworker, use his computer to go on amazon and look at loads of embarrassing items. For the most part they'll appear in targeted ads later.

Oh yeah, my top three sneaks worth checking out:
- Nike Roshe Run
- Nike flyknit trainer
- Y-3 Qasa (releasing soon)
For the Adizero I say why not go the yellow.

dom said...

I am similarly stalked by an ad for Montagio tailor-made suits, the result of a spot of googling for tailors in Sydney.

And I agree - if I have to look at an ad, it might as well be for something I've shown an interest in rather than, say, erectile dysfunction.

As for the shoes - if you are buying them for their high-vis safety qualities as a running shoe, I'm with you. If you just like the way they look, I'm against you. But then my wardrobe could be described as 50 shades of grey. Minus the exciting bits.

Luke said...

"A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them." Steve Jobs

Re Luke said...

That is through a PR release, word of mouth or a clever tvc. not stalking them on the web.....big difference.

Just Saying said...

The opposite of Content is Discontent

Droo said...

I don't reckon that the folk who read this blog are necessarily the intended audience for targeted ads, so yeah, you all think they're satan's spoof, as do I, but the fashion addicts, shopaholics, impulse buyers and gadget fanatics with no self control over their purse strings probably love 'em.

It's not that much different to you giving us a list of suggested ad blogs to read Scamp – you're showing us something we may have an interest in due to our web browsing habits, and we're not really offended by you presuming to guess what we may like.

I think I have a point here, but I'm not quite sure what it is, and I've gotta go as it's 6 here in London and the pub's just texted/tweeted and poked me.

Charles Harper said...

I got annoyed at Reid Cycles giving me ads all over after I looked up a bike for a friend. After reading this article I googled about it and found this site that will opt you out of ad networks that serve behavioural ads: