Yesterday I was teaching an Internet Marketing class and one of the students asked how the Sponsored Listings (ads) that show up in Gmail work. The reason she asked was because sometimes the ads displayed in her Gmail account are very closely related to the content of her mail messages. “Creepy” was the word she used.
My first response was, “huh? what ads?”
That’s because I’m an older person and those sponsored listings were literally completely invisible to me – I had never noticed them. And the subject had never come up in any discussion before, not even with other IM professionals.
So, we logged on to my Gmail account, clicked on the latest message, and lo and behold, there they were – over on the right hand side, displayed just as they would be if I had done a search in Google. That’s when the word “creepy” entered into the conversation.
Intrigued, I looked around in Google’s help files and sure enough – ads displayed in Gmail are presented based on the contents of your messages. It’s as if the text in your message had been a search string or a web page.
Google’s full explanation can be found here:
Now don’t start panicking. It’s not as if anybody is actually reading your messages. It’s done automatically in exactly the same way that Google correlates a search string to determine what ads to display.
But the situation brought up another really good Internet Marketing lesson.
People of different generations view the web in different ways.
The Gmail sponsored links made absolutely no impression on me whatsoever – and I am quite confident that’s age-related. I’m in my 40′s and have been spending the better part of the past 20 years online. I’m jaded. You’ve got to work hard to get my attention.
The student on the other hand was college-age or so, and saw her Gmail screen with completely different eyes and attention.
I am thankful to the student for asking me a question for which I didn’t have the immediate answer!
Those of us in the IM business need to be aware of how different people see and interact with the web in different ways. It takes both the experience of the old, and the fresh eyes of the young – as well as people of all stripes.