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Dawn of The Zombie Marketing Apocalypse

By Lauren Cohrs - October 16, 2013

It knows who you are, it watches your every online move even in the darkest hours, it’s lurking behind your computer screen, it’s…

Zombie Marketing.

On Monday, contributor to Forbes.com Jonathan Salem Baskin announced the rise of “Zombie Marketing” just in time for the upcoming spooky holiday season. According to the writer, this era of targeting customers refers to the capturing of browser data and behavior, from which computers then “automatically tee-up recommendations on products or services” individually tailored to appear for specific users. Sound familiar?

It’s Alive! It’s Aliiiiive!

The days of brainless advertising are already upon us with unyielding hunger for your attention. Remember when Facebook began lending space on its site for small snippets of advertisements back in 2009? The site developed methods to cue up and spew out advertisements related to user hobbies, and data based on profile information. Just log onto your account today and you’ll be sure to find a whole column of ads that match (or at least attempt to match) your personal interests. Love it or hate it, Facebook, Youtube, Pandora and many other platforms have turned into staples of Zombie Marketing.

zombie marketing example facebook ads
I need “Sweet New Goggles” for the snowboarding I don’t do.

But does it really work, or have marketing “geniuses” created a monster? At first glance, the system seems to function fairly well. Personally, Facebook has lurked around my information, making way for lovely ads regarding nearby charity events, deals on local apartments, and Fall sales on boots. These are all pretty solid assumptions for a female college student. But, hitting the refresh button a few times has dug up promotions for less relevant things: rifles, degrees in Cybersecurity, and even ads written in Spanish for health insurance. Now these are a little bit more far fetched assumptions likely pulled from other profile information. Most can relate to this issue.

Buried Alive in Ads

However accurate or inaccurate the advertisements may be, Zombie Marketing still presents major concerns for web surfers. Users must beware of:

  1. Data security issues: With user data available with the click of a button, privacy and security have become a hot topic. Most sites do have an option to turn off personalized ads (not the ads themselves) so that information is less available to advertisers. Still, without opting for these restrictions, millions of account holders unwittingly volunteer their personal information to be snatched for market data.
  2. Advertisement overload: Popular websites host spots for several ads. Facebook, for example, has found a way to jam up home screens with at least 4 ads; and, our favorite video sharing platform Youtube can eat up minutes of your time with required commercial watching. Caution: coming across an excessive amount of ads may cause severe annoyance, slamming of keyboards, and boycotting of sites.
  3. Misconstrued marketing: As mentioned before, the information matching process certainly isn’t without flaws. Many sites will offer so-called “personalized” promotions that hardly relate to your interests. I guess Zombie Marketing really can live up to its name when it comes to mindlessness.

Fresh Content Wards Off Zombie Marketing

The technology and strategies behind Zombie Marketing still have a bit of fine-tuning to do in order to step out of those crude Frankenstein stages of development. But before you get nervous about these zombie-robot-monster-marketing machines taking over the web any time soon, remember that we, as human beings, possess the most powerful online marketing weapons around: living, breathing, creatively-built content. Unique information is attention-grabbing and motivating, much more than haphazardly-built automated ads. Seriously. Most of us cannot remember a time when we intentionally clicked on any of these advertisements.

That being said, what do you think about Zombie Marketing’s big bite into our cyber lives? Genius or brainless?

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