Audience Segmentation: Is it always Ethical?

This week, we talk about Digital Audience and one of the topics under this umbrella is Audience Segmentation.

The rise of social media has equipped us more powerful tools to target audiences. Nowadays, advertisers can use paid targeting options from social media to effectively deliver their ads to the most potential consumers. For example, Facebook provides a service which let companies target their advertisements to users based on data such as user demographics, interests and geographical locations.

However, is this practice always ethical?

To achieve sales goals, many businesses have turned audience segmentation into an unethical practice. This is described in the book “Fear of Audience Segmentation” as the “exploitation of vulnerable populations“, including consumers who have psychological problems or lack the intelligence to make informed purchases.

In a study, Sharon Beder explains how children are exploited on the internet. Beder accuses advertisers of stealing personal information by asking the kids to fill online surveys before they can play games or offering prizes to attract them. Through these activities, advertisers gather information about children’s purchase behaviors, preferences and even ask for personal information of their family’s members. Advertisers then use this information to design individualized messages and advertisements.

Parents, please take care of your kids!


One clear example of such unethical practice can be drawn from ad agency Saatchi and Saatchi’s advertisement about their Kid Connection Service:

We at KID CONNECTION are committed to understanding kids: their motivations, their feelings, and their influences. In keeping with our mission to connect our clients to the kid market with programs that match our clients’ business objectives with the needs, drives and desires of kids…Interactive technology is at the forefront of kid culture, allowing us to enter into contemporary kid life and communicate with them in an environment they call their own.

Can you believe it? It is shameless!

Social media and digital platforms have given us powerful tools to effectively target audiences for our advertising or public relations campaign. However, to do it in an ethical way requires us to consider customers’ benefits as equal as our companies’.

Do not let money blind your mind!


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