Lately, I’ve been thinking about the Tom Cruise futuristic movie, “Minority Report.” In this, the Cruise character walked through a public space, and the images in the large kiosks changed for him and each passing person. The ads were precisely targeted to whomever walked by.
Is that much different from amazon.com, which sends you suggestions almost daily of more stuff to buy? “You bought Brand X flea killer. We have Brand Y flea killer you might also want to try.” Or “Others who bought Brand X flea killer also bought this book about fleas, these special flea-catcher gloves, and a mask to wear while applying flea killer.”
We buy pearl tapioca from Amazon. I made a mistake on my last order, and received two boxes with four bags of tapioca in each, a total of twelve pounds of tapioca. Three weeks later I’m getting reminders to buy more. Amazon’s computer hasn’t figured out that I’ll die before I ever need to order tapioca again. The same computer has kept busy letting me know of opportunities to buy large quantities of tapioca flour. It knows a tapioca lover when it sees one.
If you click on any ad, you can expect it to reappear in unlikely places. I clicked on the picture of a cork purse a few times, and the purse followed me to Facebook. I don’t know why I attract Zulily ads at every turn, but they arrive on the NPR website and Facebook and probably a dozen other places I’m not even aware of. I hope they’re picking on everyone, and not just me.
And have you ever wondered what you did to deserve the neon yellow banana that wants you to know the five, or is it ten, foods you should never eat. Ever since I clicked on that one, although I remember nothing about the foods, the glowing banana appears so often that it’s now in my dreams. And I’m still eating bananas.
Then there are the ads coming from links you’re sure you never clicked on. Take bullets for example. I’ve researched hundreds of topics for my stories, ranging from dog training to the use of coca leaves among Andean peoples, but never have needed to know anything about bullets. Yet my junk mail box is filled with emails offering me the best prices for different kinds of bullets.
Maybe it was something I clicked by mistake. But I’ve never done that before, except for the time I accidentally signed up my husband for a dating website.