Social Media Marketing

Rant: AdTech Time Thieves from Another Planet

They promised that technology would liberate us from chores. It could make us work faster. So how come we’re ever more stressed and pushed for time? I’ve got a theory, but I can only tell you if you promise to keep it quiet… Technology fell into the hands of the wrong people. Well, I say people, but in truth I believe they are aliens from another planet, where they are running out of the Galaxy’s most precious asset - time. So now they are on earth, trying to steal as much of ours as they possibly can. And they use advertising and marketing technology to do it.

I crept into a large hangar in a cultural desert to spy on these ‘Ad Tech’ creatures. They are fiendishly cunning and devious, constantly thinking up new ways of getting past our defences and stealing not just our identities, but whole chunks of our life. If I hadn’t know better, I would have believed that what I was witnessing was an innocent trade show for the digital marketing and advertising industries. But I know the real truth. They are ruthless time thieves, looking to clean us out. Here are some of the devious techniques they plan to use on us in order to steal our lives from under us.

Big Data seemed to be a subject that gets the time-thieving alien in a lather, while leaving most sensible humans cold. Indeed, after witnessing this event, the mere mention of Big Data now sends a shudder right through my nervous system. Big Data is at the heart of everything we do, I heard one of the visitors from AdTech say. “It gives us endless insights into the human condition,” the sinister alien boasted, and I felt a cold hand clutch at my heart. “Advanced analytics can tell us everything about our target demographic,” said the extraterrestrial fiend, with a chilling lack of emotion, “because we are passionate about customer service.” Beware of anyone who boasts of being passionate. They are likely to be monsters in human form.

Another alien boasted how he’d infiltrated one of Britain’s budget airlines, and was helping ‘customers’ to have ‘conversations’ with his brand. Being familiar with this particular budget airline, I can only conclude that anyone (or any thing) that can pull this off must have powers way beyond any human. The only dialogue anyone has ever had with representatives of this airline has been along the lines of “why are you so late?” and “can I have a seat that doesn’t smell of vomit?” However, this alien claims it can use technology to engage humans in customer experience marketing. How they achieve this, through data alone, is surely the work of a supernatural force.

At another platform, I spied the SVP of a privacy-stealing organisation - that has refined and built upon the ‘long-con’ method of deception used by human confidence tricksters. He was holding court on the subject of ‘the future of social media’, this being the polite term for the data burglary that it really is. I felt I had to move, lest he caught my eye and I was turned to stone.

Trust is the new online currency, the marketing alien was telling its audience. If you can fake authenticity, the world is your oyster, he told excited delegates. “From a publisher’s perspective you need to be able to trust that quality brands are featured on your site and from a brand’s perspective you want to know that you are reaching a relevant and engaged audience.” No, I haven’t got a clue what that means either – I was rather hoping you would know.

While you are about it, could you explain what ‘engaging content’ is too? It’s a term the aliens use, but no human being I know would ever get excited about a piece of prose that used words like ‘engaging’. Describing anyone’s creative effort as mere ‘content’ has to be one of the most insulting things you can do. Still, the aliens don’t know that, so there’s still hope that they won’t take over.

Eventually, I’m hoping, humans will become immune to the attempts at intrusion by these time-stealing marketing aliens. Yes, they are clever – in a devious rat-like cunning sort of a way – but their lack of human empathy is a massive disadvantage. One alien announced, to a dumbstruck audience, that Big Data analysis has given him powerful insights into customers. It gladdened my heart to discover that these ‘insights’ into the human psyche were nothing of the sort. I found it an enormous relief that – despite all their technology – these advertising and marketing aliens missed the most blindingly obvious aspects of human nature, namely that we don’t want a relationship with any company, we just want nice products at the best possible price.

I found the incompetence of the Ad-Tech world very reassuring. It means they probably won’t rule the world and technology might one day be used for good, instead of evil.


Nick Booth worked in IT in the UK’s National Health Service, financial services and The Met Police, witnessing at first hand the disruptive effects of new technology.


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Nick Booth

Nick Booth worked in IT in the UK’s National Health Service, financial services and The Met Police, witnessing at first hand the disruptive effects of new technology. As a journalist and analyst, his mission is to stop history repeating itself.

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