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> By and large, it doesn't, very well.

I know Twitter isn't known for being the best at advertising, but it was made exceptionally clear to me that online advertising is a massive bunch of lies when I did my GDPR Twitter data export and it included me in a bunch of incorrect, non-sensical and contradictory ad targeting groups.

Twitter claims I:

    * Own a cat, dog and other animal (I don't)
    * Have between $100k- $999k liquid investible assets (I don't)
    * Have a net worth between $1 and $1m (cool - I own *something*)
    * Am highly affluent (/shrug)
    * Am a high spender (okay...)
    * Am a frugal spender  (...but how can I be both a high spender AND frugal)
    * Own a house (I don't)
    * Have multiple families (I don't)

I was very disappointed that the Google and Facebook data exports don't contain this data. Maybe it's for their best.

> GDPR Twitter data export and it included me in a bunch of incorrect, non-sensical and contradictory ad targeting groups.

This is expected. It's not desirable, but it is expected.

The problem is your comparing it to an absolute. I.e. to perfect.

If advertisers had that choice, they would love it. They generally don't. Remarketing is kinda close, but limits the scale.

Rather, the only other scalable options are far worse. Think about it. What are the marketers other choices?

The one that should come to mind, and the one they spend most of their money: TV.

With TV you pick up a huge amount of waste. Say you buy a spot on Big Bang because you want people thinking of buying a new iPhone. Not a big stretch, right? At the same time thinking of all the other people they have to buy, who watch the ad, and aren't buying an iPhone. It's waste.

And that waste is huge relative to what you're talking about above.

So you're asking the wrong question here. It's not how good is the targeting in terms of precision/recall. The question is what's better?

The waste here is generally known & its priced accordingly.

> I was very disappointed that the Google and Facebook data exports don't contain this data.

It's in my Facebook export. Under "Information About You" did you uncheck "Ads"?

That's where the information is contained & it's checked by default.

You can also view it here for both FB & Google, as well as opt of both:



> Rather, the only other scalable options are far worse.

Is it really worse than "this article is about X, Y is related, let's show some ads for Y"?

I bet from the point of view of the advertisement middlemen it is not. Because they capitalize mostly on showing ads of products that people already decided to buy or are very near deciding. But that is yet another racquet that only decreases the value of the industry. My question is, from the point of view of the real advertisers (the ones selling something), is it really worse?

Right but the advertising budgets for things actually related to articles or other media content are vastly dwarfed by the advertising budgets for unrelated things that actually make more revenue/profit.

So you'll end up having to try to monetize something that has little no no related things that are profitable to advertise.

> What are the marketers other choices?

Advertise on a tech site, 80+% will be interested in tech.

Advertise on a dog community site is probably pretty spot on if you want to target dog owners...

Far better than what, 5% ? This isn't rocket science, we sold everyones integrity for pennies.

> who watch the ad, and aren't buying an iPhone. It's waste.

No, advertisements like that are more about selling the brand than selling iphones. Something TV is probably pretty good for.

> Advertise on a dog community site is probably pretty spot on if you want to target dog owners...

That would probably target dog enthusiasts or dog hobbyists or dog fanatics, which are all subsets of dog owners.

I think that one of the things that makes social media ad targeting so attractive to advertisers is that they can target the dog owners, instead of just the enthusiasts/hobbyists/fanatics.

> Advertise on a dog community site is probably pretty spot on if you want to target dog owners...

Big brands struggle with UGC. Witness the events of YouTube & brand safety.

But even without that, what you're saying just isn't scalable. What community site can reach even 50% of dog owners -- let alone what a primtetime sitcom or YouTube can reach?

> No, advertisements like that are more about selling the brand than selling iphones. Something TV is probably pretty good for.

What? Sure, they have campaigns running for awareness, recall, perception.

But you're really saying Apple doesn't dramatically increase its spend when a new phone is released? That's poppycock.

Only google et al cares about scalability, everyone else cares about results. Only google needs to sell ads without any knowledge about the product or audience, this scales extremely well but leads to poor results.

> But you're really saying Apple doesn't dramatically increase its spend when a new phone is released? That's poppycock.

When is the best time to sell the brand? When your flagship is a year old and still costs as much as on launch day and when the competition has surpassed you? Hardly.

People that has enough interest to use a dog-forum has too much knowledge of quality to buy things that a company advertises. They will know already what works for their dog and does not listen to advertising in the normal sense. They might however listen to bloggers that has been payed to talk about brands.

If you buy ads, you want them displayed to the non-fanatics that is not influenced by experience and vulnerable to brand exposure.

As long as the algorithms are close to or better than this model why would they bother? One is all automated and the other is a lot of work dealing with individual websites (even if it is just a matter of manual targeting settings)

I'd say they are much much worse, but they are scalable and cheaper so that kind of makes up for it.

But the only one who cares is the middleman. They are the only ones that benefit from the scale.

> Advertise on a dog community site is probably pretty spot on if you want to target dog owners...

Give me a list of dog community site to target 1 millions dog owners.

Now tell me how expensive it would be to show ads on theses websites.

Plenty of dog owners are on Facebook, much easier to target 1 millions dog owner there instead.

Did I forget to mentions that it's for a dog shop in Montreal? Good luck!

Looking at the hundreds of mostly incorrect or irrelevant demographics that Twitter has be in, I would still say there’s a huge amount of waste going on. At least with offline advertising (like TV or print) the “fuzziness” is very explicit. Here, Twitter sells you that you can target “dog owners”, but nowhere through the Twitter ad buy process does it tell you how BS that targeting is.

And that's why Twitter is not doing as well as Facebook. Facebook doesn't need algorithms to know what you are interested in, where you like to eat, etc. You explicitly tell them in your info and by what types of articles you like and share, and what you post.

Well I’ve told Twitter that I hate Blockchain and think it’s all BS, yet I still get ads for ICOs and “Uber for the blockchain” - whatever the fuck that is.

Again, I guess this is because Twitter sucks at advertising.

Twitter is the same, except even more-so. People tweet 10+ times a day, update FB status infrequently.

All the things FB has done to extract things like resturant data etc are product development they undertook. Twitter spent 10 years moving form 140 characters to 280 instead.

Even if that is true, when people sign up for Facebook, they fill out a bio telling FB their work history, their school affiliations, who their family members are, their hometowns and current cities, they check in where they are at, tell FB their favorite books, music, tv shows, thier gender, relationship status, thier sexual preference, and thier political party affiliation. Everyone doesn't fill out everything, but a lot of people do.

That's exactly my point.

There is no reason why Twitter couldn't have done the same 5 years ago. And no reason that they can't do it now.

(Also people are just as likely to follow and talk about things like tv shows and music and politics on Twitter as FB)

Plus the fact that they can also average your interests from information volunteered by your friends and family because "birds of a feather, flock together".

IOW, Twitter followers may be total strangers to many IRL, unlike Facebook followers.

Traditionally, it wasn't necessarily considered a waste to give people a positive feeling about your brand even if they weren't the specific ones who wanted to buy, because everybody talks to everyone else.

I think advertisers have been chasing a chimera via targeting, because not only doesn't it work well, but there is a trade-off to maintaining a brand.

I’ll tell you one thing that’d be better: prices and wages that make sense. I shouldn’t be faced with dozens of subscriptions just to lead basically the same life I did over a decade ago with half those subscriptions (or fewer). And being paid 5x what I made then shouldn’t feel like I’m making it work but not saving much. And I shouldn’t be getting sales calls over 4 months after having used TrueCar.

For the frugal/high spender conflict, I can kind of see how that might happen.

I try to buy quality goods because cheap stuff doesn't last. That means spending more up front to spend less in the long run. So frugal, but also maybe high spender?

My mom always says: if you're poor, you can't afford to buy cheap.

All things equal (features that I need from the product) I like to buy high quality things because they make me feel good (they look well built, they give me this warm feeling inside that I got my money's worth). But I realize this is all emotional and rationally I shouldn't, in most cases.

I don't think they pay off long term, at least it seems heavily dependent on the product type. That's because we are playing a lottery game, even if this product breaks in 0.1% cases vs 5% cases for a much cheaper product, we're not buying large numbers of them, we're buying just one and while the probability to break on me is smaller it can still happen and the monetary loss would be much larger than if I were to buy the cheaper product. That is, the warranty doesn't scale with the price (the expensive top quality TV is $2000 and the cheaper one is $500 and both have 1 year of warranty), for the same money I can buy 4 of those $500 TVs and would last at least 4 years (but very likely to find at least one that will work much longer, since I'm buying up to 4 of them).

That almost never works for the reason you describe. For any quality item that lasts M times as long as the cheap item, you can almost always find N > M such that you can buy N copies of the cheap item for the price of one quality item. You do not spend less in the long run, though you can convince yourself of that. The primary effect of buying cheap is not financial, it's that you're dealing with less quality over the entire usage lifetime (hence getting less utility out of it) and the replacement effort has cost (but which for poor people is very little by definition).

It is probably because they have to show you the categories/tags but they are not required to show you the exact percentage/probability. So in their db they have it like 80% frugal spender, 15% high spender but when exported you see it as a yes/no which is confusing.

I guess the 'spoiler' is that I'm fortunate enough to certainly not be a frugal spender. Yet another data point they have about me that they sell, but is completely incorrect.

I think this might be it eg spending $250 instead of $50 on shoes or boots for longer life and improved comfort.

$250 shoes do not last 5 times as long as $50 shoes. Improved comfort is the main benefit.

The math can work out in some cases. I've had my 400$ Allen Edmunds for 8 years, some wear, but generally still in fantastic shape and very comfortable. Prior to getting them I bought 1-3 pairs of ~70$ department store shoes per year.

Usually it's very anecdotal and hard to tell ahead of time. My current shoes cost 40€ and that was about 4 years ago. So they have lasted atleast half as long as your expensive shows for 1/10th the price.

I have some inexpensive Chinese-made boots that are over a decade old, I think. It can't be the norm that shoes last 4 months, unless you are talking about wearing down the soles of running shoes.

easier to repair also

Have they got the following mostly right:

    * Your age bracket;
    * The fact that your net worth is positive (not deep in debt);
    * Whether you live in a city / suburb / countryside;
    * Which part of country is that;
    * Your gender;
    * Your race / ethnicity, broadly?
If so, they still have an immensely precise focus on you, compared to TV, radio, or paper media, even if they're mistaken about your cat.

I don't know about the person in question, but in order:

* Yes, but the age bracket for me is _very_ wide (it says "alive and not in need of new knees yet probably", but not much more)

* They didn't have this info

* This was wrong

* No, they didn't have this (although the country itself was correct)

* Wrong

* They did not have this

He just doesn't want to admit on HN that he has a cat.

Yep agreed. As a salesperson, knowing someone went to college is often more helpful than knowing what exact college someone went to - too personalized is just creepy. I think the trick is somewhere around the space being able to accurately engage someone with of "hey you look like the sort of person who might be interested in xyz".

Yeah, my impression is that this whole "smart, targeted ads" thing is actually just a lie, and that it's really more of a "spray and pray" kind of thing.

It's a bubble!

But everyone using this spray and pray knows it is far from perfect. You just use the best you can get and knows about the imperfections. Spray and pray also works in a broad sense.

I had very similar experience with Facebook when tried to check my profile. Out of 20 interests only 4 were correct

I think it is an intentional stretching the interests way to far to look better for advertisers.

In more details: https://levashov.biz/can-trust-facebook-audience-interests/

The idea of advertising is also to create interest where there is none. If you all of a sudden see an ad about those other topics your aren't super interested yet, maybe you will become. That's the idea of manipulation and marketing.

That's the kind of advertisement TV is selling, not what social media are claiming to sell.

For Google, something similar can be found under My account -> Personal info & privacy -> Ads settings.

Most of the topics Google thinks I'm interested in are close enough. But American football and Parenting? I don't know where they got those. I have to consciously think to come up with the name of the local team ("Mariners? No, that's baseball."), and we don't have kids nor any plans to do so.

Maybe it was all the clicking on CafeMom.com (mommy blog with tons of trackers and ads) while I was testing the Pi-Hole set up. :-)

Would like to see my own. How do you do that?

> I was very disappointed that the Google and Facebook data exports don't contain this data.

Facebook has it available, if not in their Download Your Information tool. Go to Settings -> Ads -> Your Information -> Categories.

Mine says "You do not have any behaviors in your ad" preferences. https://i.imgur.com/giAxfiF.png

But interesting page. Looking at the "advertisers who have added your details to their targeting list" it again shows how bullshit this industry is:

    * Playstation in 19 countries
    * Musicians which I definitely don't listen to, like Keith Urban, Post Malone, Jack White, YBN Nahmir, and Ziggy Marley, whoever these people are.
    * Pages like "Top Kickstarter Watches" and "Top Kickstarter Inventions"
    * A bunch of restaurants that I've never been to, but are in the same complex that I used to live in (thanks whoever sold/'shared' my email, literally probably my former real estate agent)

Last time I checked mine, it was pretty accurate, but I have a lot of the "PlayStation in <random country>" too!

I also see a lot of PlayStation related ads on my news feed... I haven't used a PlayStation since I got an Xbox one!

One can see it a bit like search where it can be more important to do fast exclude than to have correct include. Those 8 ad targeting groups are potential matches, but what the data do not say is the hundreds of targeting groups which twitter claim that you are not. This kind of fast classification is good as a performance/cost saving technique when the error cost is also low.

Also, one can be high spender and frugal. A person who buy one pair of very expensive shoes and wear them for 10 years rather than buying 10 pairs of inexpensive ones would be such person.

> Facebook data exports don't contain this data

Facebook does have demographics and targeting data. Go to Setting -> Ads -> Your Information -> Your Categories. I haven't found a way to export it.

On the categorization side, Facebook does a half decent job considering I don't upload anything on FB or any other sister sites.

Twitter on the other hand might be running algorithm which tries to extrapolate too much from the available data.

I've never looked at the Google export, but you can see what topics they think you are interested in here: https://adssettings.google.com/authenticated?hl=en

Twitter is just entirely incompetent at everything, so no surprise they get their advertising product wrong too.

Those are just arbitrary names given to clusters of users. If your behavior and responsiveness is similar to others in the group, why should the advertiser care if the label isn't literally true?

That's not a failure of advertising. That's a failure of technology.

The fact that you choose to purchase certain items over other equally suitable items is largely because of advertising.

Facebook believes I'm african-american (I'm not)

You might just be to facebook because you like content similiar to others in an ad group labelled african american.

How much do you use twitter?

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