I read an interesting and thoroughly entertaining article this morning from Washington Post staff writer Rachel Beckman. In it, she discusses how Facebook ads have basically been calling her fat and preying upon psychological "soft spots".
Facebook uses information that the user provides in their profile to display targeted advertisements, which in theory is a great way for an advertiser to reach the customers in its demographic. What Beckman points out, however, is that these ads can sometimes turn insulting.
It is unclear what information contained within Beckman’s profile indicated that she had a "Muffin Top" (the ad pictured at the right is what she was greeted with), but regardless of whether or not she actually has one, the ad is pretty downright insulting, especially when it is public knowledge that these ads are targeted.
She also notes that information on her profile indicating that she was engaged prompted her to receive ads about being too fat for her wedding day. That’s pretty brutal.
They’re People Too
Just as you want customers to think of your business in human terms, you should remember they are human as well, and have emotions. Do you really want to insult them with your ads?
Part of the blame in this particular scenario probably rests with Facebook, but the ads in general might not be the best way to go about attracting customers. In fact, Beckman even cites a document called "Common Ad Mistakes":
"Text may not single out an individual or degrade the viewer of the ad." It even gave an example of a diet ad that uses unacceptable language: "You’re Fat. You don’t have to be."
It is one thing to brand a need. It’s another to call attention to a person’s flaws (particularly ones that are commonly associated with depression). This would not be as much of an issue if it was a commercial broadcast on television, aimed at no specific person, but this is singling out one woman and calling her fat. That’s just in poor taste.
The creators of this ad probably didn’t consider this to be an offensive ad, and on the surface, it’s really not, but when implemented into a system like Facebook’s targeting, it’s pretty much the online equivalent of a street vendor yelling at a woman walking by on the sidewalk.