The Jetson's Flying car

From Reese’s Cups to Rockwell: Why You Feel Watched in 2023!

Alrighty, let’s start this week off by jumping in our DeLorean, kicking it up to 88 miles an hour, and heading ‘Back to the Future‘ of 1984. No, not Orwell’s 1984 – though you could argue we’re already there. I’m talking about 1984 when Rockwell’s hit ‘Somebody’s Watching Me’ was climbing the Billboard Hot 100 all the way to number two.

And hold on, movie nuts – before you accuse me of creating a time paradox that could throw even Stephen Hawking off his game, let’s clear the air: I know ‘Back to the Future‘ didn’t hit theaters until 1985. So, let’s pause the space-time continuum debates and face it – we’re living in a world where it feels like everything we touch, swipe, or mumble near is watching or listening. Folks, forget the Jetsons’ flying car; we’re already livin’ the future.

Why does it seem like every time I bring up “Reese’s” in casual conversation, my social media suddenly becomes a shrine to peanut butter cups? Cue that Rockwell song again.

Reeses Ad
Reeses Ad

Am I the only one? Or am I just one of the lucky ones? Are the marketers of Reese’s just waiting for me to espouse my love for the combination of chocolate and peanut butter, creamy peanut butter only? Really, what’s the deal?

I know you are breathlessly waiting for the answers so: “Nope, perhaps (but highly unlikely), absolutely, we are practically gift-wrapping our preferences for things we do, like, enjoy through our behaviors, what we say and where we go.”

Ok, so I am sure you are wondering, how do they pull it off? I am glad you asked.

It starts with our pocket spies, err, I mean smartphones, that cause anxiety if we forget it when we leave home. But they are just the start. We can’t forget about our laptops, smart devices, and our friendly personal assistants sitting there quietly until you call out “Alexa.” If you think about it we are basically feeding these electronic stalkers all the information they can consume, but their appetite for information is never satiated.

All our comments, likes, angry face emojis, check-ins, and online searches help build a persona of you and me. In my case it allows them to build a persona of a “washed up, middle aged, former athlete, who likes to fish, watches college football, enjoys Reese’s cups, but loves bacon.” This persona is then used by the marketing team at Reese’s to deliver targeted ads of old dudes enjoying Reese’s cups on a fishing trip, talking about last week’s college football games regretting they don’t have bacon.

If you have a desire to learn more and a couple of extra hours you may want to check out ‘The Social Dilemma.’

But for us marketers, this level of detail is amazing. Back in the day it seemed our level of demographic detail was limited to looking for a person who lives in south Tampa, has a household income between $50,000 and $1,000,000, has two and a half kids and drives a Japanese made vehicle. Today’s level of detail, some might call it obtrusive, allows us to hone in on our desired audience’s needs, wants, and desires. And it gives us a chance to provide quality products and services, to meet our audience’s needs, wants, and desires, creating a unique win-win for all parties not to just identify their favorite fishing hole.

What about the non-marketers in the house? What can we do to limit our personal information being collected and shared? Well, here is an image to help you understand where we are.

The Horse Has Left The Barn

But besides just giving in to the personal data collection here are a few things you can do:

  • Searching online: Use browser extensions like uBlock Origin. It won’t make you invisible, but it will help.
  • Disable pesky interest-based ads: So, no more Reese’s ads? Say it isn’t so.
  • Location, Location, Location: You can just turn it off. But if you must leave it on because you are directionally challenged or you tend to lose your phone, adjust your app permissions to only use location while the app is active.
  • Unplug Alexa: Seriously, do you really need to tell her to turn on your lights or tell you a bad joke? That’s why you are here! 😊

Just keep in mind that if you shut down the personalization of ads you may start seeing the latest offerings for vegan bacon bits or Florida Gator merchandise and no one wants either of those.

Till next time.

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