Culture is a very complicated and hard thing to understand and get right
October 12, 2017 6:16 AM   Subscribe

A father and a daughter driving after baseball practice. A momentary glimpse of a peacock. An ignored phone call from Mom. The Queen song “Don’t Stop Me Now.” All of these are part of Toyota’s marketing campaign for its new Camry. But which commercial you get to see may depend, in part, on what ethnicity you are.
Different Ads, Different Ethnicities, Same Car
posted by timshel (72 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
So, we’ll finally reach racial/ethnic equality, but only in how we are monetized?
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:20 AM on October 12 [7 favorites]


Separate but equal has never been equal. Of course marketing loves the idea of racially segmented marketing because not having to expose their ads to other races for fear of having white people not wanting to buy [BRAND NAME] because it's for the [minorities]
posted by Karaage at 6:34 AM on October 12 [29 favorites]


all framed in euro-centric neighborhoods/societies/cultures/filial relationships

Julia Huang, interTrend’s chief executive, who is Taiwanese-American.

“Traditionally, Asian fathers show less emotion and affection toward their kids,” Ms. Huang said. “We wanted to show that driving the Camry brought out a different side of an Asian dad and how he wanted to share the experience with his daughter.”


remember how it's unhealthy to tokenize a single person who claims to know how to generalize the experiences of huge swathes of people because internalized racism is real? hi NYT - you're doing this

“so it’s not really a stereotype — it really is a core value that is embraced.”

basically "my prejudicial ad is fine because my prejudices are true"
posted by runt at 6:35 AM on October 12 [18 favorites]


Hulu's ad system thinks I'm a Texan in the market for a new Subaru, so perhaps the answer lies in clouding your personal data with loads of conflicting junk.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:37 AM on October 12 [15 favorites]


Facebook has identified me as African American (I'm not) and it's kind of funny seeing how their ads target my apparent African American identity - I see lots of black models in clothing ads, and things like ads for natural hair products and Black singles events in Boston. Targeting ads at ethnic affiliations only works as well as your targeting data, and as well as your actual ads. If your ads feel shallowly conceived or tokenizing, I don't know how much of an improvement they'll be.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:40 AM on October 12 [14 favorites]


Hasn't McDonalds been doing this forever?
posted by OHenryPacey at 6:47 AM on October 12 [3 favorites]


One of the agencies they talked to in the article is the one responsible for the McDonald's campaigns.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:51 AM on October 12 [1 favorite]


Hasn't McDonalds been doing this forever?

Yes, and they're lovin' it.
posted by explosion at 6:52 AM on October 12 [6 favorites]


Huh. My take on this article was that someone in Toyota's, or the lead ad agencies', communications department succeeded in packaging up their advertising campaign in a way that got the NYT to spend a lot of ink on it, even embedding 4-5 ads for free on their web site.

Different ads for different demographics and heavily focus grouped pitches aren't that remarkable and I didn't see any great analysis out of this.
posted by mark k at 6:54 AM on October 12 [39 favorites]


I have the "transcultural" ad that pops up from time to time. It drives me crazy, as it's about three people blowing off very important things simply to drive around in their car. Look, I get you're trying to tell me this car is soOOooo fun, but making your kid sit by himself on the curb after school? That guy's a jerk, I don't want his car. (Okay, I already own his car - but I had it before the commercial!)
posted by Atreides at 6:54 AM on October 12 [13 favorites]


Facebook has identified me as African American (I'm not) and it's kind of funny seeing how their ads target my apparent African American identity

A few years ago, I managed to fool the Hulu advertising algorithm into thinking that I was a female Hispanic teenager (I am none of those things) by always selecting the "opposite" ad experience whenever the interface presented me with an affinity-based choice in what ads I saw. For roughly a year, I got a sizeable percentage of ads in Spanish (umprompted), as well as a higher-than-usual number of ads for cosmetics featuring Latina celebrities, and suggestions for telenovelas. At a certain point, the algorithm reasserted my boring middle-aged white male identity, which was when I decided to pony up the extra $3/month to Hulu to get rid of commercials entirely.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:57 AM on October 12 [11 favorites]


Related to ChuraChura and OHenryPacey, there was a Code Switch episode about this recently.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 6:58 AM on October 12 [6 favorites]


Some is annoying, some is handy if on actually gets a good suggestion, moving towards handling edge communities could get really really scary under the far thin wackadoodle tail.
posted by sammyo at 7:17 AM on October 12 [1 favorite]


Looking forward to Metafilter user-targeted ads where actors who look like mods get exciting about shopping at Walmart for Quonsmas.
posted by roger ackroyd at 7:41 AM on October 12 [15 favorites]


Bell Canada used to film multiple versions of the exact same ad - same music, same visuals, same everything - but with families of different ethnicities. There'd be a South Asian one, an Asian one and a Caucasian one. They'd run the "ethnic" ones on Toronto's multicultural TV station(s) in related blocks of programming and the "white" one on the major networks. They may have even produced the exact same ad in a different language as well. It was a little disconcerting as the ads were as similar as they could possibly be, modulo the people and the language.
posted by GuyZero at 7:44 AM on October 12


Looking forward to Metafilter user-targeted ads where actors who look like mods get exciting about shopping at Walmart for Quonsmas.

"Hey, gore-tex, what are you planning on getting your secret quonsar this year?"

"Wha-? Who are you?! And why is there a camera crew over there?"

"Silly, because we have cameras! Right? Did ...did I say it right?"

"How the hell did you get into my house?!"
posted by leotrotsky at 7:56 AM on October 12 [6 favorites]


Hasn't McDonalds been doing this forever?

Planet Money Podcast episode about Tom Burrell, a pioneer African-American in advertising (and his agency is also referenced in this article as contributing to the ads) , which references this very thing (and also mentions the old "cloned ad" concept).

Burrell (in the podcast) mentioned one ad where they made it shot for shot with two different couples - and forgot to change out the family photos in the background.

I work in and around the areas of this technology, and how racist/creepy it is probably depends more on how racist/creepy the people are making the targeting decisions than the fact that the technology exists. Different segments (economic, age, ethnicity) do in fact make different decisions for different reasons, and can be found as an audience in different programming, sites, etc.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:57 AM on October 12 [8 favorites]


the answer lies in clouding your personal data with loads of conflicting junk.

Clouded personal data - that's where I'm a Viking.
posted by Segundus at 7:58 AM on October 12 [16 favorites]


Different ads for different demographics and heavily focus grouped pitches aren't that remarkable and I didn't see any great analysis out of this.

What's funny is when their stereotypes breakdown. For example, I'm a gun owning hunter with a lifted 4x4 pickup, a beard and a flannel addiction. I follow a bunch of pages related to that. But, I'm also a progressive lefty and follow a bunch of pages related to that.

FB and Google both surface ads for RWNJ stuff all of the friggen time. ALL THE TIME. It's super aggravating. I mean, my google news feed is set to suppress foxnews, brietbat, infowars, etc etc etc. Those pages are blocked on my newsfeed, as well, and every goddamned ad they show me is "OBAMAS SECRET SHOCK TROOPS ARE MARCHING ON YOUR FREEDOMS CLICK HERE TO STOP THEM".

Your algorithmic future sucks, Facebook.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:01 AM on October 12 [13 favorites]


I get the Spanish and English language versions of some car ad a lot on Hulu because my wife watches some Spanish language shows on the account. The part that really cracks me up is it's one of those "Real People, Not Actors" ads, but the two versions are SOOOOOOO close to identical that it's beyond credible to believe real people regurgitated the same ideas in two languages without being heavily fed those lines.
posted by jermsplan at 8:10 AM on October 12 [10 favorites]


Different ads for different demographics and heavily focus grouped pitches aren't that remarkable and I didn't see any great analysis out of this.

The interesting/freaky bit for me is the shift from “we know that X demographic consumes X media products, so we will place ads targeting that group in those media products” to “we will skip the middleman and try to guess the demographic of each specific pair of eyeballs.”

In theory this takes the guesswork out of targeting and allows you to avoid (for example) serving a male-targeted ad to the female 15% of Monster Truck Weekly readers. But really it’s just offloading the guesswork to an algorithm which is also designed by humans, with the predictably hilarious results described above.

They’re going to keep getting better at it though, which is legitimately kind of unsettling to me.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:39 AM on October 12 [2 favorites]


By the way, ctrl-f "who is white" for a brief chortle. I especially enjoyed The agency recoils at the notion that, by default, its ads may be designed to appeal first and foremost to white people. “There is no Caucasian market,” said Mark Turner, chief strategy officer of Saatchi & Saatchi, who is white.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:43 AM on October 12 [19 favorites]


(As part of my mass comm degree, I took a class on ad buying in, hmm, 2009. It was a very well-respected program. As I recall, we barely discussed online ads at all. Wonder what that same class looks like now!)
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:47 AM on October 12


do people not buy cars because they are reliable, fuel-efficient, and cheap to maintain

what is with all this weird corporate branding culture nonsense and why do people buy into it. i just want a dry ad with facts and figures and maybe a note at the end saying 'we donated our advertising budget to such and such good cause instead of pouring millions into shilling Baudrillardian simulacra because we know you're not chumps'
posted by runt at 9:14 AM on October 12 [11 favorites]


Pogo_Fuzzybutt: "I'm a gun owning hunter with a lifted 4x4 pickup, a beard and a flannel addiction. I follow a bunch of pages related to that. But, I'm also a progressive lefty and follow a bunch of pages related to that."

So...you're Canadian?
posted by Grither at 9:26 AM on October 12 [20 favorites]


So, we’ll finally reach racial/ethnic equality, but only in how we are monetized?

I know people on the Internet often define neoliberalism too broadly when given examples of real world behaviors under capitalism, but come on, can I do it now?
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:32 AM on October 12 [1 favorite]


posting from the belly of (one of) the beast, getting marketing training on api stuff, and the toys and tools and incredible sophisticated resources available (the first one is free) is just mind boggling. Be your inner marketing cloud because the cloud will be in you. (whether you want it or not, no way to hide) (oh those off the grid outliers? (in the model))...
posted by sammyo at 9:35 AM on October 12


Minor programming note: If the "2017" tag is meant to refer to the model year of the Camry, these ads are for the 2018 Camry. I would also suggest "2018Camry" as a tag.

I have one. It's pretty great.
posted by glonous keming at 9:36 AM on October 12


do people not buy cars because they are reliable, fuel-efficient, and cheap to maintain

For years, Toyota seems to have been pushing the notion that driving one of their items will make you FEEL alive. Which is better than the opposite, I guess. But in truth, what Toyota has generally always done is made way better than average cars that are indeed reliable, fuel efficient and comparatively cheap to maintain. But humans being humans, I guess you can't just tell us that.
posted by philip-random at 9:38 AM on October 12 [1 favorite]


The most culturally-jarring aspect of those ads to me is their glorification of speeding and driving fast - I must say I was quite taken aback by it. That would never work for the mass-market here in Ireland, where the are constant ads on TV from the Road Safety Authority about the dangers of speeding, and many people feel the roads are already more dangerous than they should be.
posted by StephenF at 9:38 AM on October 12 [5 favorites]


Now I'm picturing an Irish car commercial that's just 30 seconds of people calmly and competently parallel parking.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:46 AM on October 12 [37 favorites]


Now I'm picturing an Irish car commercial that's just 30 seconds of people calmly and competently parallel parking.

get me some of that ASMR narration and we've got a meme
posted by runt at 9:46 AM on October 12 [9 favorites]


do people not buy cars because they are reliable, fuel-efficient, and cheap to maintain

Hi! I remember driving in the 1980s, often in cars that were old and shitty then, so I will make the following pronouncement:

(Almost) All cars for sale in the 2017 USA are amazingly reliable, quite fuel-efficient, very cheap to maintain, have very powerful engines, and are really shockingly safe in a crash.

The question is why someone should buy your reliable, fuel-efficient, cheap to maintain, overpowered, safe car instead of some other company's reliable, fuel-efficient, cheap to maintain, overpowered, safe car.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:47 AM on October 12 [7 favorites]


we donated our advertising budget to such and such good cause instead of pouring millions into shilling Baudrillardian simulacra because we know you're not chumps'

Oh dear no, heck no, AND NO. I don't want to listen to another patronizing and self congratulatory ad about "Random acts of Helpfulness" from Honda.
posted by FJT at 9:47 AM on October 12 [1 favorite]


I am just a Whitey McWhiterson. But I will say that I've liked seeing the current trend advertising trends towards more ads oriented around racial minorities and FAR more ads that feature multiracial casts, like that cereal ad with the interracial couple. Especially when the ads don't feel ghettoized, like you'd only see an ad with black people if your tv was playing Soul Train when you turned it on.

Double especially in 2017. Anything multiracial or multicultural or acknowledging that the future isn't just white is like a big middle finger to the fuckwit brigade. Watching the smart money appealing to the future Not Anglo majority is like waving two middle fingers at them while singing the nanny-nanny-fuck-you song.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:52 AM on October 12 [14 favorites]


Pogo_Fuzzybutt: "I'm a gun owning hunter with a lifted 4x4 pickup, a beard and a flannel addiction. I follow a bunch of pages related to that. But, I'm also a progressive lefty and follow a bunch of pages related to that."

So...you're Canadian?


Or a lesbian. I kid!
posted by tippiedog at 9:54 AM on October 12 [3 favorites]


@ROU_Xenophobe: Ah, but see, that's where the dry-bones, information-heavy ad comes in -- you can then wave around numbers that show which of those things you beat your competitors at, and where you do so most resoundingly, with (factual) contextualization where appropriate.

To be fair, I probably wouldn't altogether trust that either, myself; I'd still want to look at third-party reviews. And still be somewhat suspicious of whether *those* are paid for or just filtered through biases which are irrelevant to the information I'm seeking. But it would be preferable to the trend of grasping for -- to quote Universal Paperclips -- hypnoharmonic frequencies to influence consumer behavior.
posted by inconstant at 10:13 AM on October 12


But in truth, what Toyota has generally always done is made way better than average cars that are indeed reliable, fuel efficient and comparatively cheap to maintain

The problem Toyota has is that, they are, fundementally, Oldsmobiles - the responsible car your grandparents bought. Toyota is, deep down inside, a very conservative car company that does what works until there is a better solution, and then they do that. This is the opposite of flashy and innovative. They are cognizant of this, however, and are trying not get caught in the Oldsmobile trap, whereby your clients are fantastic and loyal, and then they die and you don't have any.

It's a tough balance to strike. I didn't buy my Tacoma because it's got the latest gewgaws and whatzits. I bought it because capably it goes where I point it, over, or sometimes across, what I pointed it at, and then, it reliably brings me back from there.

So...you're Canadian? .... Or a lesbian. I kid!

Grew up in Northern MN. Back when you could cross the border with a wave and smile.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:15 AM on October 12 [5 favorites]


That would never work for the mass-market here in Ireland

I've driven there, and it's true you don't need the encouragement. Also, our Yank roads tend to be straight, more than 8 feet wide, less hemmed in by hedgerows and are significantly less likely to contain a wandering bullock.
posted by Diablevert at 10:20 AM on October 12 [4 favorites]


The difference between the old targeted ads and the new ones is, as people have noted, how Facebook & Co. seem to think that they know who you are and what you'll buy based on the data that they have on you and, of course, their priceless algorithms. There are some fairly crude implementations of this, such as, for example, this T-shirt.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:31 AM on October 12 [4 favorites]


And still be somewhat suspicious of whether *those* are paid for or just filtered through biases which are irrelevant to the information I'm seeking. But it would be preferable to the trend of grasping for -- to quote Universal Paperclips -- hypnoharmonic frequencies to influence consumer behavior.
than i
There can be both types. And more and more review and analysis of products and services are starting to have both information heavy sources and more "feeling" based sources. In the end, I don't know if it's more or less helpful. Aziz Ansari has pointed out the effect of spending an entire morning finding the very best place for brunch, only to find that it's closed. Most of the time we just need good enough and not THE BEST EVER.

And even if we later find out that what we bought cost more than it should or it's 1% less good than something else available, our human brains will find some way to justify why the decision we made was the right one.
posted by FJT at 10:42 AM on October 12


A few years back, TD Bank ran TV ads announcing their new Sunday hours, and they filmed them in multiple languages. The "mainstream" version had grumpy white grandpas complaining that nowadays people were too busy, even banks were open on Sunday, etc. The Chinese version had two Chinese grandpas discussing the change approvingly. I found this hilarious, because I could picture the focus group with a bunch of Chinese-Canadians being like, "no, you can't use that script, our parents would be all like, 'Finally!'" I'm curious what the other versions of the ad were like.

(This is actually one of the things my parents like to talk about: "When we first moved here, everything was closed on Sunday! People didn't know how to make money! It's a good thing shops are open on Sunday now! No one has time for shopping on weekdays!" and so on...)
posted by airmail at 10:52 AM on October 12 [12 favorites]


what is with all this weird corporate branding culture nonsense and why do people buy into it. i just want a dry ad with facts and figures and maybe a note at the end saying 'we donated our advertising budget to such and such good cause instead of pouring millions into shilling Baudrillardian simulacra because we know you're not chumps'

Advertisers have tried this with wildly varying results, some have been incredibly negative. A positive example would be the original ads for the VW bugs back in the 60s, where it was among the first major ad campaigns to be self-deprecating or even ironic.

The unfortunate truth is is that marketing and advertising isn't just designed to get you to buy things that you already need. It's also designed to get you to want to buy things you don't actually need.

The most common, basic way that advertising does this is by creating the need with psychological manipulation, and car advertisements are pretty much the heaviest users of this psychological manipulation - and they have to, because, really, the reality around cars is really grim. There's a reason why they never show a traffic jam in a car advertisement.

And one of these psychological manipulations is using imagery of aspirational and lifestyle cues that are coded for whatever the target demographic is. This could be imagery of immaculate, upscale surburban homes, it could be an open country road, it could be a day at the beach or a night out on the town. These are all lifestyle cues.

And in most of these ads they're not selling you a car or utilitarian transportation. They're selling you a lifestyle and a complete package.

The perfect family home, kids quietly playing in the back of the minivan, Pinterest ready solidly upper middle class tasteful clothes for everyone - and no stress like everyone's zonked out on xanax.

The hot date and bright lights of the city at night, zooming through empty streets and freeways with the bass kicking - implied sex and nightlife lifestyle, partying, drugs.

Or the classic truck or SUV perched on a mesa, lifted there by helicopter - ruggedly paranoid self contained individualism and masculinity booster, often suitable for middle aged men feeling a bit... flagging lately.

All of these advertising narratives basically insult people tell them to reflect on your own life and your own aspirations and force the viewer to find them lacking and wanting - thus creating both want and need.

Because, no, of course your life isn't that perfect. Because those unrealistic examples and aspirational imagery are unattainable fictions.

What's makes this even more appalling is if you keep peeling back the historical onion of advertising and mass market consumerism, the more you find that many of the aspirations and cultural standards we take for granted as de facto parts of our culture were also originally created by advertisers.

The diamond wedding ring is an overt example of this, but it pervades almost everywhere to the clothes we wear to how we present ourselves to the world and what we find culturally acceptable or taboo. Valentine's Day is another prime example of this. So is Halloween. Many of the icons and traditions around a modern US Christmas or Thanksgiving also have deep roots in advertising, mass marketing and consumerism.

So, yeah, of course car advertisers are going to atomize and culturally target their ads for cultural and racial demographics.

They've been doing it all along, but if you're the target or prime demographic, you might not be able to notice how deeply weird it really is.
posted by loquacious at 11:02 AM on October 12 [17 favorites]


@FJT: Sure, there *can* be both types, but I would actually prefer for there *not* to be advertising that attempts to deceive and manipulate people into buying things by implying things that are untrue ("this car will make you connect better with your children!", "most food is dirty and shameful but our food is pure and guilt-free!", etc.)
posted by inconstant at 11:24 AM on October 12


And if we're talking reviews rather than just advertisements, I don't personally feel a pressing need for third parties to get in on the untrue-implications-to-manipulate-behavior train either. The dichotomy is not "facts vs. feelings" -- human decisionmaking is inextricably tied to emotion -- it's "true things vs. untrue things".
posted by inconstant at 11:28 AM on October 12


Years ago, I got a bulk-mail letter with my name on it (not addressed to "resident") that said how discerning Black women like me needed to subscribe to Ebony.

I am not Black. (Danish, Swedish, Scots-Irish... I am very very not Black.) But my neighborhood was, and presumably every female-sounding name in the nearby area got that letter.

That was my introduction to demographic-focused advertising and it was fascinating and hilarious, and ever since then I do what I can to be in demographic categories that mean advertisers are wasting money trying to reach me with algorithms.

It was medical ads that clued me in to "we're selling a lifestyle, not a product." I remember seeing a few where I could not figure out what they were selling at all - maybe there was a product name near the end, but I couldn't tell if it was medicine or a vacation plan or clothing - the ad set was "happy families on a picnic." So I raised my kids to watch ads and ask, "what are they selling, and why are they saying you should buy it?"

Basic ads are "buy our drinks; they're tasty and refreshing." More convoluted are "buy our drinks; you'll enjoy time with your friends." It gets weird with "buy our drinks; only stupid people don't buy our drinks."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:31 AM on October 12 [3 favorites]


do people not buy cars because they are reliable, fuel-efficient, and cheap to maintain

No. If that were the case, they'd buy a new car every 10-15 years, when maintenance and fuel costs start to outstrip what a newer car would cost. Car companies want people to buy new cars every 3-5 years, and for that to happen, they need a pitch that's more compelling than "it's useful and fits in your budget."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:44 AM on October 12 [2 favorites]


do people not buy cars because they are reliable, fuel-efficient, and cheap to maintain

what is with all this weird corporate branding culture nonsense and why do people buy into it.

runt

You may be interested in Edward Bernays's 1928 book Propaganda. Bernays is called the father of modern public relations, and this book discusses exactly the question you ask. One example Bernays uses is pianos.

If you're trying to sell a piano, the old-fashioned (at the book's time) way was to do as you say: you'd have an ad explaining the characteristics of your pianos and how they are high-quality and well-made and so people wanting a piano should buy one from you. He notes that this approach is a very direct "assault" on people, and difficult because it has to overcome people's natural barriers and suspicion of being sold to.

So he advises that, instead of trying to convince people to buy pianos, the savvy company avoids a direct "assault" and seeks to make people think they want to buy a piano on their own. Get respected people in the community to extol the virtues of music education and having music in one's home. Have home magazines and media promote having a music parlor as modern, fashionable, and good for the family. Promote contests and public events and concerts around music and pianos.

Eventually people will get the idea that having a piano is good, and come to you to buy them. Corporate branding is a related concept: by associating your product with good feelings, places, or concepts, you get consumers to want them on their own instead of trying to convince them directly.

Not to mention that in the case of cars in particular, what you're suggesting isn't really possible. Cars aren't just the basic specs, which honestly aren't all that super different between companies. People also take into consideration things like style and appearance, the status and image the car projects, etc., and that necessarily will involve branding. Getting from A to B isn't the only concern.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:59 AM on October 12 [7 favorites]


He notes that this approach is a very direct "assault" on people, and difficult because it has to overcome people's natural barriers and suspicion of being sold to.

I feel like this would make sense if we didn't have things like Consumer Reports or semi-decent independent testing outlets like the US Pharmacopeia. or if we just had tax-funded agencies that did real testing on products en masse and

I mean what if we just did away with capitalism is what I'm saying
posted by runt at 12:28 PM on October 12


I mean what if we just did away with capitalism is what I'm saying

The manipulation of desire for gain is also the primary mechanism of evolution. Buddha is supposed to have cracked the nut, but even he thought it'd take a couple thousand millennia for practically anybody else to manage it.
posted by Diablevert at 1:11 PM on October 12 [3 favorites]


Pretty interesting. Also interesting to note the one thing all the ads have in common: speeding.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:37 PM on October 12 [1 favorite]


I was employed as an art director in the advertising industry in NYC for the better part of 30 years despite the M&A mania. Some of that was in global agencies, some in mid-size, some in "niche" agencies. Industry composition anticipated tech integration, trending to atomization or versioning.

The industry product, employees, vendors have been segregated by "race or ethnicity" by volume and value all that time. Tacit agreement between agency and advertiser ("client") on production, employment, and media buy spending is proportioned per Pareto rule: high volume and value to so-called general market ("white" middle-class America) advertising assignments : all other demographic populations, 80:20 respectively. Accordingly, general market typed persons (usually male) got the plum assignments to the plum accounts in the plum agencies. It was a big deal when Ogilvy tapped Charlotte Beers for CEO, because victory for general market feminism.

Agency and advertiser subdivided "all other" business into "target," or "niche," markets. Yes, tech neither discovered nor invented the value ($) target marketing or, for example, advertorial format now known inexplicably as "native ads". Agencies did not search for, hire, or integrate "all others" to mine target markets and deliver appropriate marcom except as convenient to present token liberalism to vanity press. Rather these lines of business were subcontracted to "all other" ad agencies near and far from agency "of record." Burrell , Spike/DDB was one such, Uniworld were such &tc. These agencies hired "all others." Proliferation of tech algorithms, instead of human algorithms, has much changed the industry's landscape in terms of value and volume on the producer side. What has is what was quaintly known as "cross-over appeal" (to the general market) of some "all others" products and services. Leading with celebrity endorsement. That never gets old.
posted by marycatherine at 2:51 PM on October 12 [6 favorites]


"present token liberalism to vanity press"
includes US federal government. I hope you understand that, because I cannot be sure that readers apprehend US federal government is a plum client for every agency and US federal government EEOC regulation requires a modicum of compliance by contractors.
posted by marycatherine at 2:56 PM on October 12 [1 favorite]


remember how it's unhealthy to tokenize a single person who claims to know how to generalize the experiences of huge swathes of people because internalized racism is real? hi NYT - you're doing this

They're quoting an Asian man talking about his own culture. What should they have done instead?
posted by Sebmojo at 3:06 PM on October 12 [1 favorite]


Cars aren't just the basic specs, which honestly aren't all that super different between companies. People also take into consideration things like style and appearance, the status and image the car projects, etc., and that necessarily will involve branding. Getting from A to B isn't the only concern.

So another thing about ads is that they project an image not just to buyers but also to owners: for example, why does Land Rover advertise on broadcast TV? Is the average sitcom viewer really going to buy a Land Rover because of an ad? No. But the ad is designed to reinforce an existing buyer's decision - "man I sure feel great about buying that Land Rover". Thus you improve customer loyalty which in a super-saturated market like cars is just as important as getting a new customer. After all, there are really no new customers for cars, just customers you've stolen from someone else.

So the Toyota ad lets Toyota buyers know that hey, we know you bought it because it's reliable and reasonably priced, but it's actually really fun too! yippie! vroom! And then people feel better about having bought a Toyota.

Eventually people will get the idea that having a piano is good, and come to you to buy them. Corporate branding is a related concept: by associating your product with good feelings, places, or concepts, you get consumers to want them on their own instead of trying to convince them directly.

And this is true not just of future customers, but also of people who already own your product.
posted by GuyZero at 3:10 PM on October 12 [2 favorites]


do people not buy cars because they are reliable, fuel-efficient, and cheap to maintain

Well the 9 year old Honda Fit in my garage says yes to that idea but on the other hand, Honda's not going to get any more money from me for another decade. So, selling Fits to someone like me is probably not a great way to keep the factories humming.
posted by octothorpe at 3:44 PM on October 12


do people not buy cars because they are reliable, fuel-efficient, and cheap to maintain

You must not be 'Murrican. Cars are the most emotional of all big ticket purchases here, moreso than houses or even washing machines. People, even those who profess no fetishistic love of their vehicle, can become really distressed when their pride and joys get dented or wrecked.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 5:08 PM on October 12


do people not buy cars because they are reliable, fuel-efficient, and cheap to maintain

what is with all this weird corporate branding culture nonsense and why do people buy into it. i just want a dry ad with facts and figures and maybe a note at the end saying 'we donated our advertising budget to such and such good cause instead of pouring millions into shilling Baudrillardian simulacra because we know you're not chumps'


If you reread your two paragraphs you may find it amusing that you've demonstrated exactly why branding and advertising exists.

You say you only want an objectively good car, but what you actually describe is the branding that would signal that you have an "objectively good car." You want a company's advertising campaign--"dry ad, facts and figures, tells me they think I'm too smart to fall for flashy stuff"--which is in not necessarily connected to the top engineered car. Obviously a well engineered car with the specs you want could have flashy advertising, lame advertising, no ads, etc.

I'm not saying you actually feel this way. But this is 100% what advertisers are pitching: A brand that matches someone's self narrative about who they are and signals to other people those traits too. Your post would totally lead an advertiser to say that they could come up with a campaign for you. In this case, "substance, not flashy, definitely not going to be taken for a chump."

That's definitely a thing. I know at least at one time the "warehouse stores" like Price Club (now CostCo) saved empty boxes and put them on the top of shelves so people would feel like they were in a no-frills store that didn't waste money on decoration, even though it's obviously more effort to place the boxes there and give people that impression than to just toss them out right away.
posted by mark k at 6:29 PM on October 12 [7 favorites]


Cars are the most emotional of all big ticket purchases here

Case in point, the 2017 Emmy winning and 2017 Oscar nominated animated 3-D short about a father and daughter's life, all set in their car: Pearl

Switch out that 1970s generic hatchback for a real car and you can edit together some 30-second ads from that short.
posted by FJT at 6:43 PM on October 12 [2 favorites]


@mark k: I'll speak for myself alone, but personally, I'm not saying "a company should put out reasonable and factual ads instead of being manipulative and deceptive -- then I'll buy their stuff!"; I'm saying "all companies should put out reasonable and factual ads instead of being manipulative and deceptive -- that's what I believe the baseline standard for behavior ought to be".
posted by inconstant at 7:04 PM on October 12


Also interesting to note the one thing all the ads have in common: speeding.

Yep. It's the time of year when dark o'clock comes earlier and earlier, and pedestrians are being knocked down like ninepins. But please, show me lots of ads where the family sedan turns into a stealth Batmobile, complete with flaming exhaust, while revving over 60 fucking mph.
posted by maudlin at 8:20 PM on October 12


Wait, which car turns into a stealth Batmobile? Asking for a, um, Friend.
posted by Mitheral at 8:53 PM on October 12


I did a car focus group once, because they paid me and I was curious what it would be like. My opinions were all about practical things - will the car fit my people and stuff, how hard will it be to install the car seats, are the controls easy to read. Everyone else was talking about their emotional reactions - how the car made them feel, what they thought other people would think of them if they drove that car, what looked cheap and what looked classy. These people are nuts, I kept thinking, surely no one thinks about cars that way?
posted by medusa at 9:29 PM on October 12 [1 favorite]


I find trends, and market profiling, interesting and usually frightening. Because one thing I've noticed is that luxury car brands mostly send the message "it's OK for you to be an asshole, you're special". And how blatantly they seem to think the target audience is shallow and stupid. And they're probably right.

The most recent example is an ad where a middle aged white guy is going to enter witness protection. They tell him how he's doing the right thing and people's lives are going to be saved by his actions, but he'll have to drive a boring mini van. He says hell no and gets in his cock rocket.
posted by bongo_x at 9:33 PM on October 12


Is this why the advertisements I see on Hulu are filled to the brim with minorities and interracial couples (that and lots of ads for pharmaceuticals)? I've always thought American ads were amazing because the Australian media landscape is shockingly white, but now I'm wondering if Hulu already figured out I was not-white and geared me towards those ads in the first place. Hmm.
posted by liquorice at 9:37 PM on October 12


So I recently was at a Marketing Technology conference in Boston. There is a metric ton of products in this space with varying levels of utility. The whole movement forward is personalization - but it assumes you have correct information about your customer. If you are misclassified it can have odd results. But, classifications are based on probabilities and inference, and depending upon how cheap a company is - may not be validated vs. better data sources (such as demographics sold by your bank). In ChuraChura's case where I could imagine she maintains an interest in places she's visited and people she's met while doing field research, that means she has been possibly classified as black.

There was a great speaker from Doc Martens on how they utilize personalization. How do you think it would be perceived by a traditional Doc Martins tribe member who is heavy into the punk scene in London to get emails and site wrappers that highlight their floral print boots for 7 year olds? They know. It didn't go over well. They figured out personalization real fast. So yes, the site is targeting you, it is looking at what it can learn from you, and some forms are better at it than others.

In ChuraChura's case, I would also point out - that as a minimum - they know that she is more comfortable with a racially diverse advertisement than say a republican who has never left their state, attends their white church and participates in Donald Trump rallies. In the long term, they'll capture more information about her, particularly by her not responding to those advertisements where they will offer her up a new set. It is a process of test and learn... and do not think the machines aren't learning.

I can talk to a metric ton of how this stuff gets built, where companies in general are going with it, and what an investment in a marketing stack looks like for a decently sized company. There's a bunch of stuff people don't need. There are different things people need for different sized companies. This gets like way way way more complex over the next few years as we move further into AI as a tool without data scientists, modelers, engineers, and mathematicians driving what is fed to the machine. Memail me if you need a deep dive on this.

----
Also, if you were there at the conference - blockchain marketing is bullshit as described on the first day- the future does have some level of validation to it, but the second day opening session remarks were much closer. A $0.00 value crypto-"coin" that has your information and history on it is far more likely to work its way into the marketing lexicon than actual bitcoin. With that, we've already started to figure out what a strategy on leasing customer data would look like, and how that would affect marketing models. More importantly, how we go about not being 100% reliant on leased data.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:36 AM on October 13 [1 favorite]


mark k: I'll speak for myself alone, but personally, I'm not saying "a company should put out reasonable and factual ads instead of being manipulative and deceptive -- then I'll buy their stuff!";

Yeah, since when did it become mandatory that we have to be strategizing with the companies whose goal is to make us buy things? The public interest standard shouldn’t be let’s reflexively approve of and allow whatever works best for the advertisers, should it? It should be what’s best for the public good. If training a population to be easily manipulated by their unconscious emotional associations with products and services is supposed to be a public good, I’m not seeing it. Not to mention how this sort of advertising steals your identity from you and uses it against you manipulatively, exploiting natural pro-social behavioral tendencies and using them to trick people not for prosocial reasons, but to profit. It ends up creating a system that subtly pigeonholes and identity polices everybody, sorting and labelling and creating artificially clean and distinct and stereotypical identity categories that make it more tempting and easier to other people who don’t fit neatly into the predefined identity bins advertisers put us in. The whole mess creates a false sense of community based in imagery and vague feelings, then exploits natural psychological features of the tension between human in-group, out-group, and individual identities to sell us things for no greater purpose than because someone wants to make money off us and is willing to use this one weird trick to do it.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:50 AM on October 13 [1 favorite]


So let's think about local (proprietary) and paid market intelligence, automated.

Hulu is an interesting network model, because it launched with interstitial advertising supported with an interactive survey instrument to gauge subscribers' opinions about the ads: Some proprietary A/B testing results are collected. To the extent number of respondents satisfy minimum sample size, that tech informs Hulu ad space pricing structure and sales strategy to advertisers.

Other methods are (a) client-side data collection , Hulu "cookies" storied by browser, and (b) server-side data collection and data compilation, background IP calls and processes initialized when a subscriber launches Hulu: Some proprietary Hulu subscriber's usage data are collected. This information can be compiled and classified according to proprietary demographic rules, i.e. time, date, title, duration, associated titles, HH size, HH location, &tc.

Hulu may also purchase market intelligence from one or more third-parties ( pure-play research services and complementary services such as Instagram, Facebook, Amazon) for several purposes, in general, to qualify the value (purchasing power, purchase decisions) of a subscriber "class" to advertisers purchasing Hulu ad space. Hulu may also rent "pixel" space to third-parties in exchange for market intelligence of a target market, compiled from a larger sample population and geo area. This information can supplement browsing history and preferences ascribed to the subject by Hulu researchers.

So experiment. First examine the number of cookies in your browser's cache. You may be surprised by the number of third-party owners you cannot recognize--which is not to say, Hulu activity populated all of them. Flush cookie and browser history after each session for at least month. See if ad placement to you in successive sessions becomes more or less random.
posted by marycatherine at 6:02 AM on October 13 [1 favorite]


What's funny is when their stereotypes breakdown. For example, I'm a gun owning hunter with a lifted 4x4 pickup, a beard and a flannel addiction. I follow a bunch of pages related to that. But, I'm also a progressive lefty and follow a bunch of pages related to that.

This is basically me, except that my vehicle isn't lifted. I mostly have ads blocked, but some always make it through and I get that same confused mix of far right weirdness along with things that are more credibly related to my interests. I don't think it is a marketing failure so much as it is a reflection that I'm probably falling into a gap in between their typical categories so the machine marketing decisions are inevitably going to be misapplied.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:23 AM on October 13 [1 favorite]


Delivering these ads to their intended audience segment obviously makes business sense to me for what they're literally trying to do (appeal to black people THIS way, appeal to Asian people THAT way, appeal to Latinx people THIS way), but the implied exclusionary zero-sum game of that approach (e.g. do NOT show the black people ad to white people or Asian people etc. because they Won't Like It) really annoys me. I appreciate the normalization of seeing other races besides white represented in mainstream media; showing all versions of this ad to any given audience would make me much more favorable to the brand.
posted by desuetude at 9:33 AM on October 13 [1 favorite]


(Then again, we have one car for two people and we keep our cars for 10-15 years and select them for utterly practical reasons, so presumably the car industry DGAF what I think.)
posted by desuetude at 9:34 AM on October 13 [1 favorite]


Best practice is to personalize if possible, but have an unoffensive generic message to hold over for for any customer that does not meet classification/personalization criteria. Probabilities are assigned to various inferred values, and then (generally) a marketer - not the stats person - selects thresholds to develop their list. If the training data is bad, or incomplete the model will produce a combination of false positives and false negatives. Stats folks have generally erred on the side of caution historically; however as these techniques have become turnkey and advertised as easy to use - you get a mindset that may not truly understand the implications of personalizing a message when a person does not really fit in the profile. Also, it is possible that your probability cohort may be being used as a test case to see if they can increase sales for the folks added in that cohort with a secondary goal of maintaining total Life Time Value (LTV) for those folks who leave the portfolio (generally, unsubscribe) by those increased sales. (and then going back after those lapsed customers, or a deeper segmentation).
posted by Nanukthedog at 12:10 PM on October 13


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