Would You Spend Less If You Saw Fewer Ads?


Apple has a new campaign out, dramatizing data selling and targeted advertising. I must admit, I felt the point Apple is trying to make. The ad left me feeling dirty. The data auctions behind closed doors as if I were in a dystopian society. It got me for a minute there, but alas, I could explain or try to convince you as to why targeting advertising isn’t quite like the terrorizing ad seen below.

Privacy on iPhone | Data Auction | Apple

What if Apple Got Its Way?
It seems their agenda isn’t to stop advertising, but rather to stop targeted advertising. I find Apple’s point of view somewhat hypocritical and ignorant in this case, as they have the ability to spew ads across all channels without any targeting. Apple has the money to blast you with ads for their new green iPhone across all of TV (I’ve seen this ad over 25 times). They don’t need to target, as they can afford to pay for ads for every human to see. The majority of businesses need to be more frugal with their ad spend. They need only spend money targeting those more likely to become a customer.

Photo by Pickawood on Unsplash

Before I continue, I do want to be fair and clarify that I am a big fan of Apple! I love most of their hardware and believe much of it is best-in-class.

But I digress. Let’s play out a situation where all targeted advertising goes away. This means you will still see ads, but they won’t be specifically targeted to you. For example, you could be a college student in your twenties and receive advertising for a product meant for your parents or your grandparents. This is a poor user experience for you, the consumer. The advertiser would also have to spend more dollars to try to reach their target customer, and waste money on ads toward you. There are a number of arguments for why targeted advertising results in a poor experience for the consumer, including losing access to free content and news. I’m curious, what would happen to the economy?

Advertising often convinces us to buy things were weren’t already planning on purchasing, or weren’t ready to make the purchase yet. Targeted advertising likely increases this probably, given the advertiser has done research to focus on their target market, making it more likely for you to see an ad for a product you would actually be interested in. This leaves me with a few questions:

1. What would happen if we suddenly stopped making these unplanned purchases? Would consumer spending suddenly drop? Would this affect our stock market? Our GDP? Would consumer savings increase because they are buying less? Would new businesses struggle to gain awareness without small-scale, targeted ads?

2. Conversely, will the will of the people to spend their cash push forward? And if so, does this render targeted advertising useless? Perhaps the loss of targeted advertising would stabilize already-known brands and make it much more difficult for new brands to come along.

What do you think? Are we better off without enabling brands to reach us efficiently, or do we truly benefit from spending?

All opinions are my own and not representative of my current employer.