Week 9: Adblocking – “Third-Party Web Tracking”

  1. “Third-party websites”, “widget”, clickjacking”, “pseudonymous”, “disaggreating”, “web tracking”.
  2. “Web tracking” can be explained as the activity of a website using certain methods in order to gain and record data from anyone who visits a website. This can be done via the use of “cookies” which essentially track a user’s movements on a website – for example, what they click on, what they comment on, etc.
  3. “Third-Party Web Tracking: Policy and Technology”, a paper written by Jonathan R. Mayer and John C. Mitchell  mainly discusses the issue of privacy when first party websites allow third-party websites to obtain information from their users. Third party websites help first party websites by assisting them in combining social media and advertising, as well as the use of analytics. The paper explains the methods of web tracking third-party websites use, and the on going privacy issues; such as the information that a user provides that can reveal their the page “…location, interests, purchases, employment status…” (Mayer and Mitchell, 2012, p.415), and many more intrusive and personal details about their life. The paper also mentions how when asked, many users (around 87%) said they would prefer to have no tracked advertising, as well as examining the “opt-out” choices users have if they do not want to be tracked – such as adblocking softwares and “opt-out cookies”, however these cookies are still vulnerable to the influence of third-party websites.
  4. Mayer and Mitchell address the issue of privacy via the use of gathering users’ data throughout their paper. Privacy concerns seem to have been a constant and ever on going debate in the world of online advertising and there is always a persistent concern that private and intimate data could be exposed. Looking at the extremely controversial case of the Ashley Madison data leak in 2015, this caused heartbreak and anger for thousands of people across America. Ashley Madison was a website designed for married couples to find a partner to have an affair with. In the summer of 2015, information regarding its users was leaked onto the worldwide we by a third-party, exposing many women and men of their untruthful ways. Information regarding the users choices, names, sexual preference, were all revealed. When accessing Ashley Madison in 2016, the site emphasizes that the users data will not 100% private, with no issues or a possible data leak again. A more controversial example of a data leak could be Hillary Clinton’s emails, containing confidential information regarding her plans for a campaign, a donation from the King of Morocco of $12 million to try and entice Clinton to the summit, as well as wanting to intervene in Syria’s current civil war without anyone’s knowledge.
  5. Many questions can be asked after studying this paper. One question that comes to mind is whether will the increase of sensitive and personal data from users perhaps increase the risk of data leakage due to the expansion of valuable information, as more third-party websites would like access to this information?

(487 words)

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Week 8. Meet the players in the New Advertising Food Chain

  1. “Purchase funnel”, “Cookies”, Media buyers”, “Paid search”, “consumer decision journey”, “Search engine optimization”.
  2. “Search engine optimization”(also known as SEO) can best be defined as the technique used by marketers to ensure that their website/web platform is highly visible among organic (unpaid search). when individuals search on Google.
  3. “Meet the players in the New Advertising Food Chain” examines the methods used by not only Google, but other companies use in regards to “search-engine advertising”. The article also discusses how web publishers, whom are defined as “companies outside search engine sites that serve up and distribute content” (Turow, 2011, p.68), ended up turning to online ad networks, data exchanges and data providers, so that these companies can help the web publishers’ profit. The article also examines the choices  web publishers in terms of what business model they choose to adopt from these ad networks or data exchanges. Choices include cost-per-click (CPC), cost-per-action (CPA) or cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM) which the most popular among web publishers, as they get paid even if the advert is not clicked on. Turow also considers the approaches used to gather data from audiences for the purpose of more (supposedly) successful online advertising, such as the use of “cookies”, which are placed in any guests computer and gather data by what they click on and anything they view, or on any links they click on. Ultimately, Turow states that Google is at the top of the advertising “food chain”, while all the companies who are below it are attempting to battle it out for advertising space.
  4. “…who a user is becoming is more important than where [users] are” (Turow, 2011, p.85). This quote embodies the ever so prominent race within the digital and online marketplace to hatch onto what users of the web are interested in; what links they click, what they type into Google to search, what they choose to buy, who they choose to email; all of these actions provide media buyers highly valuable information on how they should target their ideal consumer. This quote can be related to any individual who uses the Internet on a daily basis (essentially anyone with a phone in this day and age). When accessing ultimately any website, an individual is often bombarded with somewhat subtle pop ups, (commonly placed in the corner or at the top of a website) asking for permission for the website to enable cookies. Websites also encourage data collection via the use of promotions or “rewards” if you will. One example is british Vogue (www.vogue.uk). Currently, Vogue has an offer present that enables you to get 12 issues for £19.99 and a free gift – but only if you subscribe to them. However, subscription requires you to input data such as your gender, name, email address, home address, telephone number, etc etc. All of these pieces of information provide a new understanding of what to advertise and what users want. Without this data from a future subscriber to Vogue, the company would not be able to gather relevant data about their visitors, therefore preventing data that could allow them to improve the adverts they choose to have on their website.
  5. A topic that could be further explored is whether online advertising would still be successful if they were unable to access less personal and intricate data about their target audience?

(542 words)

Week 6: Search Me: Google, A Case Study

  1. “Zeitgeist”, “Gordian Knot”, “Stealth marketing”, “Black Box”, “Oligopolistic”, “Archivist”, “Inexorable”.
  2. “Black box”, a term used continuously throughout the article, can be best defined as the lack of transparency and accessibility to a company’s (in this case, Google) data or how they organise their data. Pasquale refers to the “black box” that is Google’s search algorithms and their unwillingness to share them.
  3. “Search Me” calls into question Google’s decision to keep their algorithms so private and hidden away from the public eye. Pasquale questions Google’s morals and ethics as a company when it comes their claims that they do not alter their algorithms for anything or anyone, despite there being some instances that prove otherwise. For example, he mentions how when Obama and Bush’s names were searched in 2010, their names were linked to the words ‘miserable failure’, and how it took four years to rectify the search problem related to Bush, but Obama’s name was cleared much faster than Bush’s. The chapter also reviews the issues that have arisen when Google has not allowed websites to be as easily accessed when users are searching – such as the case with price comparison website, Foundem, and how Google blocked them from appearing on the front page of unpaid search results – due to the fact that Google had classified the site as substandard as it linked to many other sites – which hindered Foundem’s future economic development. Fundamentally, “Search Me” scrutinise Google’s persistency to keep their algorithms about search so private, and questions what Google may be wanting to hide in this “black box”.
  4. “Search pervasively affects our view of the Internet and increasingly of “real life” (Pasquale, 2014, p.59). Search is an extremely powerful tool, and can certainly alter a person’s opinions of reality depending on how they use it. One instance of this is the example of “autocompletes”, where when something is typed into Google’s search bar, it is automatically completed with what Google guesses the search will be. Also, due to Google organising the results of a search by their definition of relevance, this could potentially mean that a lot of information that Google considers unimportant could be missed by the individual searching for it. Autocompletes are a dangerous addition to the world of search – and this can be perfectly demonstrated by this years 2016 election, when Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both came under fire by the mass media. When “Hillary Clinton” was typed then into Google, search terms such as “hillary clinton emails” and “hillary clinton lawsuit” would come up as an autocomplete. A similar situation surfaced with Trump, with autocompletes of “donald trump sexual harassment”.  This demonstrates how autocompletes provide information that may alter the search path that the searcher has chosen to take – whether that’s good or bad, that’s in the hands of the person typing into the search bar.
  5. One question that comes to light after reading the article is if Google’s power over search on the Internet has become a barrier for the possibility of bigger and greater search engines, how do these alternative search engines intend to expand across the web?

(512 words)

The Race against Racism in Advertising

In the 21st century, one would like to believe that gone are the times where advertisements will blatantly be racist when advertising a company and or a product. Sadly, this is not the case. Advertising to this day still battles with the boundaries of what is classified as racism – and constantly crosses over the line.

One theory to perhaps why race is presented the way it is the idea of stereotypes. This could also explain why gender is represented the way it is in advertising.Stereotypes in media can be defined as: “widely circulated ideas or assumptions about particular groups. They do not exist about all groups,” (Branston and Stafford, 2006, p.142). Stereotypes exist for all genders, races and ages. For example, that females with blonde hair are less intelligent than females who don’t have coloured hair, or that all tall people are good at sports. Why do we have stereotypes, and why do we follow them or believe them? “Stereotypes perform a necessary function. They are natural, normal noise filters,” (Pardun, 2009, p.131). This quote from Pardun’s book Advertising and Society describes our need for stereotypes flawlessly; stereotypes make life easier. In this fast paced and ever changing society, we are persistently looking for an easier way to understand new information quickly and easily – and stereotypes provide that base when meeting new people and developing new relationships.

elliots.jpg

Fig. 1. Elliot Paint & Varnish Co (1930’s)

In the 1930’s, racist claims and remarks were not only used in advertisements, but were deemed as appropriate. “See how it covers over black” (see fig.1), states the Elliott Paint & Varnish Co . This company is using racism as a tool to promote their product – showing that their paint is so high in quality that it will cover over black skin with ease. This advert is ultimately stating that having black skin is something that should be covered and is a prime example of racism in advertising.

nivea.jpg

Fig. 2. Nivea (2011)

Advancing into 2011, and it seems that once again, this aimed at those with black skin. The Nivea ad (see fig. 2) says: “RE-CIVILIZE YOURSELF”, depicting a black man a shaven head about to throw a face (which is presumed to be his old hair) with a head of afro hair. Having afro hair if you are a black female or male a is common stereotype – Nivea have already tripped up by stereotyping. Similar to the Elliott advert, Nivea is essentially stating that if you are a black male and have afro hair, that it is not civilised and in order to be accepted as a part of society, you must “re-civilise” yourself by using Nivea products to change your (perhaps) natural hair into a more “acceptable” style if you are a black male. The main concern with this advert is that a male of only one race is shown; perhaps if Nivea had used males of different races, then possibly the advert wouldn’t appear to be making a snide and racist comment on a natural hair form.

Ultimately, the 21st century should be a time of open mindedness and intelligence, and possibly time for advertisers to re think their ideas when portraying the human race. A quote from the Committee of Advertising Practice sums up my thoughts exactly: “Marketers should remember that society’s tolerance changes over time,” (Cap.org.uk, 2016). The race against racism in media has just begun.

Word count: 542

Bibliography: 

Branston, G. and Stafford, R. (2006). The media student’s book. London: Routledge.

Cap.org.uk. (2016). Offence: Racism – Committee of Advertising Practice. [online] Available at: https://www.cap.org.uk/Advice-Training-on-the-rules/Advice-Online-Database/Offence-Racism.aspx#.VxgtqGQrKu4 (Accessed 04.04. 2016).

Figure 1. Elliott Paint & Varnish Co. (1930’s). [Advertisement] At: http://www.theguardian.com/media/gallery/2015/nov/18/racist-sexist-rude-crude-worst-20th-century-advertising-in-pictures (Accessed on 02.04.16).

Figure 2. Nivea. (2011). [Advertisement] At: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-10-most-racist-ads-of-the-modern-era-2012-6?IR=T#nivea-tried-telling-blacks-to-re-civilize-themselves-9 (Accessed on 02.04.16).

Pardun, C. (2009). Advertising and society. Chichester, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell.

 

Greenwashing: Wash your eyes, consumers.

Greenwashing, a form of trickery used in advertising to sell products by ensuring that the product somehow aids the environment – for example, a bottle of water claiming to be recyclable and use less plastic than other water brands, or a company stating that a certain percentage of their funds go towards a charity such as “helping to save wildlife”. Greenpeace describes greenwashing as: “the cynical use of environmental themes to whitewash corporate misbehaviour” (Stopgreenwash.org, n.d.).

According to the Greenwashing Index, there is a “Greenwashing Index Scoring Criteria”that is used help consumers determine whether an advert is attempting to greenwash them. The criteria works as follows:

  1. The ad misleads with words.
  2. The ad misleads with visuals and/or graphics.
  3. The ad makes a green claim that is vague or seemingly unprovable.
  4. The ad overstates or exaggerates how green the product/company/service actually is.
  5. The ad leaves out or masks important information, making the green claim sound better than it is. (Greenwashingindex.com, 2016).
GVO-Greenwashing-Corp-3-Fur.jpg

Fig. 1. The Fur Council of Canada (2010)

The Fur Council of Canada (see fig. 1) released an advert in 2010 claiming that fur was “natural, renewable and sustainable” as well as being biodegradable. This advert rates high on the Greenwashing Index Scoring Criteria. It misleads with words, such as “eco-fashion” (if an animal is killed purely for the use of being used as a coat, then that is certainly not eco friendly), it makes a claim that is green claim that is vague (fur being biodegradable and renewable), exaggerates it’s claim that the use of fur is green (adding the ‘furisgreen.com’ website to the advert), and certainly makes the green claim sound much superior than the reality. In terms of the visuals, it does mislead, as the use of a model in a very lavish coat assembles an image of luxury -luxury isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when wearing dead animal skin.

ob_ad.jpg

Fig. 2. O.B Tampons (2011)

Another example of green washing is O.B Tampons (see fig 2), who declare that they are saving up to one pound of waste a year by not adding applicators to their tampons. However, in the US (where o.b. is produced) cotton crops are known to have five of the top nine cancer causing pesticides in them, such as cyanide, dicofol, naled, propargite and trifluralin (Ecochoices.com, n.d.).

Through the use of greenwashing, companies are attempting to hypnotise the consumers with the idea that they are doing “good” for the environment – saving waste, or even wearing fur that is biodegradable. If a consumer is given a choice between a bottle of water where say 30% of the companies profits go towards a charity, and an ordinary bottle of water, the consumer is more likely to pick up the bottle donating to charity. Why? Well, as human beings we are an emotional species, and advertisers are constantly appealing to our emotions to promote and sell their products or company. If we feel that by buying a bottle of water that donates to a wildlife organisation will help the world in anyway, we will experience a sensation of “oh, I’m doing good, I’m being a good a person”, therefore falsely thinking that we have done a good deed; when in reality the proceeds probably aren’t going towards a wildlife organisation, but into the pockets of the company. Greenwashing: wash your eyes, consumers.

Word count: 537

Bibliography: 

Greenwashingindex.com. (2016). About Greenwashing | Greenwashing Index. [online] Available at: http://greenwashingindex.com/about-greenwashing/#score [Accessed on 03.03.16].

Ecochoices.com. (n.d.). Statistics of Cotton. [online] Available at: http://www.ecochoices.com/1/cotton_statistics.html [Accessed on 04.03.16].

Figure 1. The Fur Council of Canada. (2010). [Advertisement] At: http://www.bcliving.ca/home/is-2010-the-year-of-corporate-greenwashing [Accessed on 03.03.16].

Figure 2. o.b. Tampons. (2011). [Advertisement] At: http://kotex11.blogspot.co.uk/ [Accessed on 04.03.16].

Stopgreenwash.org. (n.d.). Greenpeace | Greenwashing. [online] Available at: http://www.stopgreenwash.org/introduction [Accessed on 03.04.16].

feMALE Power in Advertising

Gender: “the state of being male or female (typically used with reference to social or cultural differences rather than biological ones)” (gender, 2016). Gender has been a complicated and often controversial discussion in society, and the advertising world is consistently creating more and more of stir when it comes to the topic of gender. Females and males have been battling out a power struggle in advertising – and it’s never been a fair game for females.

dacon.jpg

Fig. 1. Dacron (1970)

A common reoccurring theme for females in advertising is the portrayal of being the weaker, fairer and submissive sex – particularly demonstrated through the use of the male gender using the female  as an insentient object. Beginning with Dacron (see fig.1), an advert created to sell slacks for men, the audience is presented with a  female that is clearly being objectified via not solely the use of violence (the male’s foot on her head) but also by the female being portrayed as a rug. The male is shown as a whole and strong being, however the female has been pulled apart and created into an inanimate object. “Dismemberment or body chopping appears to occur in advertising much more frequently for women than men”, (Cortese, 1999, p.75), therefore implicating that women “are objects and therefore less than human” (Cortese, 1999, p.75). With the aid of the male gender to dismember the female, the power struggle between the genders comes to a fairly simple conclusion: the male wins. At least, in the eyes of Dacron.

dg.jpg

Fig. 2. Dolce & Gabbana (2007)

Progressing almost forty years later, the portrayal of women in advertising seems to have remained as objectifying (and if not more sexualised) and degrading as before. Dolce & Gabbana released an advert in 2007 (see fig. 2) that accurately depicts how the power struggle between males and females is an unfair game. The female is surrounded by males who are hovering above her, as was seen in the Dacron advert. However, in the Dolce & Gabbana advert, the female is not dismembered, but shown in reclining position and facing away from her male audience. This can be labeled as “benign-ness of the surround” (Goffman, 1979, p.41) where a female takes on a recumbent position in which she cannot defend herself. The men are hovering over her, and one is even pinning her down, while her hips are titled upwards off the floor – indicating a feeling sexual availability.  In 2009, Sut Jhally released a documentary titled “The Codes of Gender”, which discussed gender portrayal in advertising, and touched on the topic of the use of sexual objectification of women in advertising. “Commercial realism shares a great deal with the world of pornography in it’s expression of female sexuality, in that it is overwhelmingly submissive,” (The Codes of Gender, 2009). Once again, the male gender is used as a technique in advertising to objectify the female gender.

Ultimately, the battle of the sexes has never been an easy one for the female sex. From being portrayed as inanimate object to promote men’s trousers or being placed in an advert that suggestively suggests a potential act of rape, females in advertising been shown as submissive, weak, and fundamentally a tool to represent the male gender as the superior one. Advertisers should take note; the concept of gender is a far more complex one than they depict.

Word count: 528

Bibliography

Cortese, A. (1999). Provocateur. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Figure 1. Dacron. (1970). [Advertisement] At: http://uk.businessinsider.com/sexist-vintage-ads-2015-9?r=US&IR=T (Accessed on 05.02.16)

Figure 1. Dolce & Gabbana. (2007). [Advertisement] At: http://metro.co.uk/2015/03/18/dolce-gabbana-in-hot-water-again-after-gang-rape-ad-campaign-resurfaces-just-days-after-ivf-furore-5108624/ (Accessed on 05.02.16)

gender. (2016). In: 1st ed. [online] Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/gender [Accessed 7 Feb. 2016].

Goffman, E. (1979). Gender advertisements. New York: Harper & Row.

The Codes of Gender. (2009). [film] Sut Jhally.