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Kindle spam and why targeted advertising fails

When was the last time you saw an advert and thought to yourself: "Wow, that is exactly what I want to buy!"? Today? Yesterday? Last month? A year ago?

Targeted advertising rarely nails it – yet spammers, who represent the exact opposite of targeted advertising, rake in millions. What's wrong with this picture?

Even Google, which knows a frightening amount of information about me, fails at targeting. My search results are no better when I'm logged in than when I'm logged out.

This whole targeting idea is baloney. No actual research proves it works to any extent. I'm sure these promoters shove some industry-sponsored research in an advertiser's face to convince them that computerised targeting works just so they can gouge them.

If anyone has the goods on me, it's Amazon. The company knows what I'm shopping for, it knows I have a Kindle, and it knows exactly what is on my Kindle. It has me profiled from A to Z.

I have one of those ad-subsidised Kindles that flashes "special offers" when it goes to sleep. I didn't realise this when I bought it, but it doesn't interfere with reading so I am fine with it.

I've noticed lately, however, that the promotions on the screen are largely for junk romance books, chick-lit, and other genres I would never read. I have never bought a book in this category, nor have I shopped for one. When I got up this morning the Kindle was displaying the cover of Lisa Genova's Love Anthony and offering it for $1 (66 pence) today only.

With all the geographic, demographic, and psychographic info Amazon has on me, why in the world does it think I'll buy this? At first I thought the folks behind this were idiots but then I realised that even Amazon knows spam marketing works best. To hell with what I might like to buy – roll out this offer to everyone at no cost to them! Maybe they will get lucky by virtue of the same numbers game those lucrative scammers play.

This Kindle spam tells me that the entire targeted marketing pitch is bullcrap. Spam is where it's at. Good luck fighting it. And to the vendors out there, good luck with the targeting.