Thursday, May 05, 2011

Googles "Dear Sophia" Ad is Creepy After All

While I was getting all misty eyed from this video, Elena was appalled that Google would imply that you should aggregate all the information about your child's life in gmail (instead of a photo album or scrap book).

Another blogger contrasts Apples latest ad with Googles latest ad:
Think about how each company makes money and what they have to sell to make that money. Apple makes almost all their money selling hardware products — selling to you. Google makes almost all their money selling advertising — selling you. (Or in this case, your child. Seriously — yikes!) (
I guess Google just can't stop freaking people after all.

I don't mean to sensationalize this. On the contrary, this is a great opportunity to stop and take inventory of technology's role in our life.

We freak out because it's a change; we are entering into the unknown. How much information do we want someone, like Google, to have about our lives?

Yes it's new/weird/different/unsettling that Google is aggregating all the minutia of our personal lives (still anonymously of course) for the purpose of selling us to companies that want to sell to us. But keep in mind this is not totally unfamiliar territory (besides the fact that Google has already been doing this for the last decade). This trick is the dirty little secret of the magazine industry for the last century. Their profits don't come from selling you a subscription, rather selling you on their list of subscribers to marketers. But that didn't keep anyone from subscribing to magazines.

The fundamental shift is in the detail, accuracy, and scope of information about you being made available to marketers in the digital age. We now have to ask if this is too much information, and if so, why.

I find this to be a fascinating turning point in the consumer market.

Historically, there has been a vast chasm between buyers and sellers. To cross this chasm is to enter into a vast labyrinth, shrouded in grey fog, hiding many dangers, pitfalls, and dead ends.

In bygone days, it was the job of the marketer to lead expeditions into this chasm; exploring and mapping this labyrinth. Advertisements were the sign posts and trail markers that were constructed, pointing buyers on their path to the seller.

But in this dangerous land, even the signs couldn't always be trusted. They could be confusing, often misleading, and sometimes flat out lies. When possible, it was often easier to ignore the signs altogether and trust the guidance of a friend who had already navigated the path first hand.

Much time, energy, and resources are exhausted just trying to get from one side of the chasm to the other.

Well, that is until Google built a bridge straight over it - a direct link between buyer and seller.

Google is transforming the mystery of marketing into a science - cold hard facts - who you are, what drives you, what excites you. The details are meticulously logged and calculated to connect consumers to their needs and wants.

In fact, (and this might be the scariest part) we are entering an age where Google might even understand these things about you better then you do. To me, this is far more unsettling, and that's not necessarily Google's fault either. Unless this mystery about ourselves is a valuable part of the human experience?

Is it bad to be connected to exactly what you need and want when you need and want it? This is efficiency in the marketplace. Achieving the highest level of satisfaction for the least amount of money at the least amount of effort.

Are we losing anything if we continue down this path?

We lose frustration, dissatisfaction, buyers remorse, confusion, indecisiveness, wasted time... we lose mystery...we lose risk.

Risk-management through system efficiency.

Isn't that one of the main drivers of our modern age? Is that Good? Bad? You tell me.


Kirsten Dana said...

I think that, ultimately, their slogan is true- it is what you make of it. My dad's been doing something similar for years (old fashioned, though, on paper) and I think it's adorable. Should this be the ONLY way we communicate with our children? Heavens no. But is this a possible way to have your (30) year-old self talk to your (30) year-old daughter? By the time your child has grown, you're a different. memories fade, thoughts slip away. What a precious, long-lasting way to share who YOU, as an adult, were in that moment with your child.

Kirsten Dana said...

whoops, typos. you're a different person is what i meant to say.

DK said...

Absolutely! The idea of journaling your thoughts as your child grows up is a great idea.

The idea that doing it digitally is possibly selling out the details of your child so that they can be more effectively marketed to is what spikes the "creepy" meter.

But that's so cool that your dad did that for you! I would love to do something similiar if/when Elena and I have children.

Anna said...

It's not always about building a bridge over the chasm, though. Google (or whoever) wants to connect you to someone who you are *likely* to buy from. But sometimes who you are *likely* to buy from is not who you *should* buy from. Making it easier for you to connect to someone who is selling what you want when you want it is only a good thing some of the time - when what you want is what you should have. All those other times, when you should be holding back and not buying the things you want - then it's making it that much harder to practice self-restraint, by making it easier to buy.

So, no, it isn't always a bad thing. Sometimes its a good thing. But sometimes it IS a bad thing.

DK said...

Great insight... honestly... I try and be really critical of technology, but I was having a hard time coming up with the cons in this specific case. You nailed a great one.