It All Begins With Algorithms

If you use the internet in any way, the chances are your future searches are subject to an algorithm. Whenever you comment on an article, watch a video, listen to a podcast, your search preferences are recorded and referred back to in the future. This information is then used to tailor the ads you see when you use the internet daily. Of course, as your interests change, so do the ads. The breakthrough of social media makes it possible for websites and ad companies to understand your political views, interests, what news sources you most frequent, and what sorts of shows you watch. Through this, you are given a custom-made array of recommended websites, news on a certain political view, ads that cater to your interests or hobbies, and any other type of media that appeals to you. All of this is made possible through algorithms that track your activity, and create a digital profile based on your online activity.

The algorithm itself functions like a trap or prison; the more you click on links that feed your interests, the more of that interest will pop up in your searches. If we take the American election as an example, anyone pro-Hillary are most likely to click on links that contribute positively to her campaign, leading to an influx of positive news on the then-democratic nominee. As the individual continues to press those links, the algorithm will increasingly add more of these sites, while blocking and ignoring sites that would otherwise criticize or slander Hillary. The same can be said for Ad-sponsored websites, who take your online activity and cater your online experience to things that you enjoy and love. This prison or cycle is known as the echo chamber.

Playing Our Emotions

Have you ever watched that one despairing, anguishing, tear-jerking commercial about a dog and his long lost owner that evokes some intense emotion inside you, only to have some company logo pop up at the end? Unless there is some underlying, concealed message I’m missing, most company brands have no connection with the commercials they produce. So why is it that companies are continuing to use these seemingly unconventional methods to grab your attention?

It’s more than likely that you had a commercial in your mind along with the company that produced it as you read the lines above. That enough gives reasons for businesses to use what I call manipummercials. That is, the use of commercials to manipulate the way you feel in order to encourage you to remember the brand that devised the strategy. This tactic does not pertain to just sadness, but any innate emotions that has the ability to elicit powerful feelings. This includes feelings of happiness, love, nostalgia and pride. Television is not the only place this happens either, we see this in radio, online ads, Youtube ads and even in sponsored ads that pop up on your news feed through various social media platforms.

Brainwashing, or Branding?

Put bluntly, this form of advertisement is reminiscent of brainwashing; it creates a message that slowly but surely lowers your guard and leaves a long lasting effect that impacts the way you buy products or perceive future advertisements. The most incremental factor is the way in which these ads are integrated into sites and news sources. As long as you believe in something, any sort of news you click on lays the perfect place to show you heartfelt ads that grip your attention. This can and has led to the creation of fake news, and the ads that generate their income. The creation of fake news can have detrimental effects on how we perceive not only our ads, interests, politicians, but the way in which we perceive the world. If everything you are exposed to agrees with your world, and only agrees with that reality, then that is what it becomes.

Branding With Social Media

Without delving into the implications of branding through social media, it has become blatantly obvious that advertising has taken a different direction, one that targets the heart rather than the brain. If you are a business, a combination of more traditional advertisements and manipummercials may come in handy in the future. Research has become more substantial than ever before, as understanding trends, interests, and online activities of your target group will give you the necessary information to create the most potent, influential advertisements that will leave a lasting impression on your audience.