Advertising has been around for centuries in one form or another. It
hits every one of us at some point throughout our day, through different
platforms and, is ‘much a part of daily life as sleeping, eating, working and
following leisure pursuits.’ (Ray Wright, 2000, p.3). But only in recent years
has it really transformed into a social media phenomenon. The aim of this
dissertation is to identify some of the techniques which advertisers use within
social media to directly target their audience. Anywhere we turn we see some form
of advert, whether it being in a lift, on a bus, in a newspaper, a shop window
or on television. Adverts bombard us daily.

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But we can’t deny that we use advertisements to help influence our
decisions in what we chose to consume and they open us up to an endless number
of products. Without adverts we would live in a very one dimensional society
and they allow us to be more diverse in what we consume. We know that “the
purpose of advertising is, directly or indirectly to sell things to the profit
of the advertiser,” (Lori Anne Loeb, 1994, p.197) and it has always been this
way, regardless of how far we go back and what platforms are used. It’s
expected that nearly “2.46 billion people are registered with a social media
account”, (Statista, 2017) which is a huge portion of the population. Social
media advertisements are taking over the online industry and has an enormous
amount of power to persuade, influence or change the mind of consumers.


Adverts are no longer for pleasure or enjoyment but they are all about
precision targeting, towards specific groups of individuals. The competition to
get the consumers attention is higher than ever. In chapter one, I aim to
explore how advertisers use data to target their chosen audience and create
personalised adverts. Following on from the first chapter, chapter two will
explore to how the advertisers use this data on the social media platform,
Facebook. There is a huge number of different platforms and I have chosen to
narrow down my research to focus on Facebook, as it is currently the most
popular and widely used across the world and therefore the most visible. This
form of advertising is now the biggest industry out there is a very current
subject and one that is growing rapidly and therefore resulting in a decline of
print. However, with any form of advertising some difficulties may arise, and
this is what I will investigate in my final chapter. Within this dissertation,
I aim to explore how this growing industry can create accurately targeted
adverts to help persuade influence and change the mind of society.



Chapter 1 – The use of data


“Advertising is the world’s most powerful industry,” (Dave Saunders,
1999, p.7) and it has been used to persuade and influence masses of society. The
prime aim of advertising is to get the clients through the door. This has
always been the way, even when advertising first started happening. Stephen Fox
argued that advertising “interrupts radio and television programs, disfigures
city streets, and defaces the countryside.” (Stephen Fox, p.5) This is still
happening now, however the large majority of advertising takes place online, on
social media. The term social media is defined as “websites and applications to
create and share content or to participate in social networking” (Oxford
Dictionaries). It allows people and companies to connect.  One of the greatest features is truly how fast
it lets you do this and you can immediately react. Within seconds a post could
have thousands of shares or views. With this instantaneity, social media has
changed the advertising world.


What is data?


Through the social media world, advertisers are able use one of the
greatest qualities – data. Extremely clever scientists are able to analyse data,
combined with statistics to predict the future. The use of data has been
evident for many years, just in slightly different ways. Think back to
subscriptions, where people would sign up for magazines or newspapers to be
sent through their door. These companies all had details of different
consumers, whether it being their address, age or what was their preferred
magazine genre. We learn that data is “facts and statistics collected together
for reference or analysis” (Oxford Dictionaries 2017), and the data which is
used has changed over the years. This has always been evident as Warren Berger
states “they’ve become highly adept at getting inside our heads. Advertisers
study us, by watching us.” (Warren Berger, 2001, p.34) Advertisers have always
been trying to keep up to date with the current trends and its easier than ever
to do so, with the use of data. They now study us in a more complex and
detailed way. Although the data that is collected is hidden from society, we
can still see a clear indication of what they do to accumulate the data.




We know that advertisers use data to collect information from society to
benefit the niche audiences for their adverts. “Our digital lives are tailored
to match our unique behavioural patterns” (Washington Post, 2012) and therefore
advertising currently, is a very targeted industry with the use of technology. The
term ‘micro-targeting’ refers to a strategy which collects geographic,
demographic and behavioural data to predict and influence potential and current
consumers. (mni, 2017) The term was first used by Alexander P. Gage in 2002,
with his use of identifying potential voters in political campaigns. “Micro-targeting
is creating customized winning messages, accurately predicting their impact and
delivering them directly to individuals” (Tom Agon, 2007, p.2). The advertiser
has to understand the individuals, to be able to target the specific groups
which will then lead to results. Where micro-targeting differs from targeted
political adverts is evident is the 2016 political campaign for Clinton. In Figure
1, we see an image from the Hilary Clinton Campaign who was the unsuccessful
candidate. Clinton’s campaign “team, brimmed with Silicon Valley geeks” and
they “fervently believed they had big data on their side” (Gillian Tett, 2017)
however the data which they used was purely demographic, which resulted in data
which could not predict or persuade voting patterns.  This has been the approach used for many years
in political campaigning. In previous years, “whenever pollsters have been
asked to do research on politics, they have generally focused on the things
that modern western society labels “political” — such as voter registration,
policy surveys, party affiliation, voting records and so on.” (Gillian Tett,
2017) These techniques are now less successful, hence the transition to
micro-targeting, where we see it flourish in the Donald Trump 2016 political
campaign. Fig. 2


Cambridge Analytica


The Donald Trump campaign was purely successful from the use of the
company ‘Cambridge Analytica’. It is argued that its possibly the “least
popular president in history” (Jonathan Bernstein, 2017) who won the 2016
election. How? Cambridge Analytica has “redefined the relationship between data
and campaigns” (Cambridge Analytica, 2017) and is a global leader in this
sector.  They managed to flip the
previously predicted campaign over and resulted in a victory which no one
expected. Figure 4, shows the predicted results
of the political campaign. Following on, Figure 5 shows
a map of the actual demographic results, with a success from the help of CA. What
they have done is “built a franchise by promoting the technique known as
psychographs” (Gillian Tett, 2017) which enables them to encourage consumers
with their micro-targeted messages. To begin with CA analysed millions of data
points and identified the most persuadable voters through the use of thousands
of surveys for the Trump campaign. Following on from the collection of data
points, they sent out messages on matters which they most cared about. They
could then use this data to create audience segmentation, allowing them to
create sub groups, which they could forecast the future behaviour of. This then
results in tailored messages being sent out. For example, if a small group of
people were concerned with healthcare, from websites they may have visited, CA
would send out information showing Trump’s view on healthcare Fig. 4. Cambridge
Analytica use refined techniques to hone in their audience. “The idea is that
if someone knows how you shop, live, communicate, travel and so on, you can
extrapolate backwards to create messages that resonate in a psychological
state.” (Gillian Tett, 2017) These categories of data are ones that you would
not expect to be of any help in a political campaign, however this is the data
that won Donald Trump is presidential title.  “Cambridge claims to have built extensive
personality profiles on every American” (Wired, 2016) which allowed them to
forecast the direction they would vote. A pollster, Frank Luntz, argued “that
CA were the only data scientists who read voters correctly and “figured out how
to win.”” (Gillian Tett, 2017) CA collected 5,000 data points for each
individual American in preparation for the political campaign, allowing them
insight on targeted groups of people. CA were able to target the recognised
undecided voters that could switch to Trump and the voters most persuadable. They
chose not to waste time with the voters they knew would not vote for Trump, but
spent all their time on the potential ones. In Figures 7 and 8, it shows two clear examples of what Cambridge
Analytica’s main aims are, in which they use to target their audience.


Why do we use data?


We have more data than ever before, resulting in more competition to
fight for the attention of the viewer. Advertisers need to keep up with current
trends, which data enables them to do. Advertisers must do lot more to fight
for the consumers and make their adverts noticed.  With the ability for advertisers to dig deep
into the data and use the all of these data points towards creating and
tunnelling specific advertisements, individuals are now visible to the tailored
adverts they want to see and potentially change their views. In recent years,
advertisers would put out an advert for a product which would be aired on
television. This would be seen on many people’s TV’s. This is an example of
mass media marketing. For example, the car
brand, Ford. An advert Fig. 9 like this would
actually be targeted to a very small percentage of people out of those who
exposed to it, and the people who do see it, most probably aren’t interested in
buying a car. This would then lead to viewers very uninterested. 

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