Election season may be over, but we haven’t escaped the attack ads, thanks to Microsoft.
The company relaunched its “Scroogled” anti-Google campaign overnight, featuring ads highlighting the fact that the search giant uses the contents of Gmail messages to deliver ads. This practice isn’t a surprise to most people who follow technology, but Microsoft says it commissioned a phone survey showing that 70 percent of the population wasn’t aware of the practice, and the vast majority disapprove of it when they learn about it.
Here’s the problem: The ads (below) play on that ignorance by trying to leave the impression that people at Google are literally reading the messages and serving up ads. Of course, this is all about massive databases and algorithms doing the work. Maybe that would still creep people out, but in the end, the ads feel a lot like those endless election campaigns full of not-quite-complete information designed to motivate us based on our fears.
It’s no coincidence that political strategist Mark Penn is working for Microsoft these days, helping to lead the company’s consumer strategy.
Of course, the ultimate problem is that these types of campaigns can also work, at least in the political realm. It’s disappointing, but true. Aren’t we smarter than this as a society?