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Big Brother meets GOTV

DCblogger's picture

Candidates' Web Sites Get to Know the Voters

Any two people interested in whether Amanda Beard is dating fellow Olympian Michael Phelps, and who clicked on the Boston Herald tidbit that raced around the Web last week, got the same piece of gossip.

Rumored galpal Amanda Beard on Phelps: No Thanks!

What was different was the political ads that appeared -- or didn't -- beside the story.

Readers who had visited Barack Obama's Web site received as many as three Obama ads alongside the gossip. "Help Elect Barack Obama President of the United States" and "Visit the Barack Obama Website," the ads said.

Readers who hadn't visited his site didn't see a single Obama pitch.

How did the campaign know which readers to send ads to? Although both the Obama and John McCain campaigns are reluctant to discuss details, the ability to identify sympathetic voters based on their Internet habits, and then to target them with ads as they move across the Web, is one of the defining aspects of the 2008 presidential campaign.

I don't think it is just the presidential candidates. Is it any wonder that politicians who use methods such as this fail to protect the fourth amendment?

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bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Just went to the article and the ads were for Netflix, Comcast and Dove skin cream. I've been to all of the candidate's web sites, maybe I don't fit into a bucket.

Did get to see a nice photo of Amanda Beard naked for PETA, so thanks for that.

Submitted by lambert on

and I'll experiment today to see if I don't see Barack Obama ads everywhere. Jeebus, it was so pervasive it was turning me off, rather than on. It's like being nagged.

Excellent catch and inference, DCBlogger. Is it usual, does anyone know, for cookies at one site to affect ads at another?

[ ] Very tepidly voting for Obama [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Iphie's picture
Submitted by Iphie on

It is especially obvious if you do any online shopping. Until I stopped lurking and started commenting here and elsewhere, I always kept cookies turned off. Now that I leave them on more regularly, it is astonishing to see what ads are presented to me based on assumptions made about my previous web activity. I bought an HD radio last spring -- prior to buying it, I really didn't know anything about HD radio and had never seen an ad for one. After I did some research about them, though, I was inundated with ads from every HD radio manufacturer out there. It was like I had clicked the right button and awakened a beast.

I try to delete cookies I don't want at least once a week -- I've become less vigilant about it lately, though this is reminding me to renew my interest.

I haven't looked into it recently, but I know that there used to be software that was designed to automatically clean out your cookie file based on whatever preferences you set i.e., clean out the file once a day, or everytime you quit your browser -- keep cookies from corrente, but delete cookies from doubleclick, etc. I think I should probably start looking into that again. I wonder what ads will begin to show up after I do that?

Submitted by Paul_Lukasiak on

The story suggests that the decision was made based on the content of the "Beard/Phelps" story -- and while it sounds great --"Obama does not want to be featured on a page where a woman is saying 'no thanks' to a man" (or "no thanks to the latest person getting his 15 minutes of fame")-- a far more likely explanation is that Obama is still in 'cult of personality' mode -- and that its crucial for the Obama campaign to keep supplying the kool-aid.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

All may be true about Obama himself, I don't know the man personally, but ad buys are just ad buys. Camp Obama writes a check and some third party like Yahoo feeds some aggregated web site visit patterns info to a broker who pays somebody with thick glasses and a software program to set it all up and places like the Boston Globe Web site get a share when the program recognizes your cookie and spins you an ad. All very mechanical and cold and deliberate, standard 50's advertising penetration model updated for the 21st Century, not Montgomery Burns rubbing his hands together in glee at taking over the world.

Obama will always be in "cult of personality" mode although "brand" is probably closer to it. We're used to thinking of political personalities in personal, dictatorial terms but the new mode is more along the lines of a movie star. Not that Obama is a phony entirely, and not that he isn't stuck on himself, but he's not crafting a new Reich so much as he is rolling out a new product that yes, he and his "corporation" want you to buy.