12 May 2014

Will the real Geoff White please stand up?

I’m a big problem for Samsung. Or more accurately, my split personality is a big problem for Samsung.

The South Korean tech giant seems desperate to sell me its new flagship phone, the Galaxy S5; so much so that it’s bombarding my social media accounts with ads for the thing.

Like many other brands, to get their product in front of my eyeballs, Samsung will have paid an ad agency lots of money. That ad agency has in turn approached a media buyer who will buy the space on Facebook, etc. That request goes to the ad exchanges who control the inventory, i.e. how many Samsung ads they can show to the sites’ visitors. The money then eventually makes its way to pay the actual website showing the ad (minus the various cuts taken by the intermediary companies along the way).

If you want to see what this soup of advertising firms looks like, take a look at this.

But here’s the problem: I have several different accounts on each social media website. Why? Because I like to keep my work life and my home life very separate. I also have a couple of dummy accounts that I use for testing out stories. As far as Samsung and its advertising allies are concerned, there are four different Geoff Whites, and they have to show off the phone to all of them, incurring four times the expenditure.


(Am I an unusual case? No: according to Facebook’s 2012 accounts, one in 20 accounts is “duplicate”. )

But it gets worse for Samsung, and other big brands who advertise online. They’ll probably have paid a premium to get onto my social networks because they’ve been told that the ads can be specifically targeted towards people like me (in this case, potential S5 purchasers).

Q: How many Geoff Whites are going to buy the S5? A: None. Why? Because I just renewed my mobile phone contract and already have a new handset.

The online ad industry as it stands has three problems. Firstly, it seems bloated with intermediaries; secondly, it’s fatally vulnerable to duplicate and fake accounts; and thirdly, its hallowed targeting ability is actually, pretty rubbish.

Follow @geoffwhite247 on Twitter