Author Topic: Working in advertising and conflicted about it. Advice?  (Read 3378 times)

badgerbadgerbadger

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Working in advertising and conflicted about it. Advice?
« on: June 09, 2016, 12:39:46 PM »
Hi,

I'm a software developer, I work for a company that enables any company to set up an ad campaign. Think AdWords. We are also able to track people around the internet, across websites and even across devices. We usually know everything about them: sex, race, age, income, interests, household size... While we follow the industry's (self established) best practices re privacy and won't run any illegal ads, I feel conflicted.

Advertising things goes against what I believe in, I feel bad influencing people to buy things they can't afford/don't need and further encouraging this spiral of consumerism + debt. Or planting political ideas into people's mind that I don't necessarily agree with. It's also not what I want my contribution to the world to be.

The money is very nice though and definitely above market for my position. If I were to move elsewhere, I'd probably take a 15-20% salary hit.

I'd much rather work for a non-profit or an organization doing good and helping people. I'm under the impression these organizations don't have a lot of money though and that I'd be working below market rates.

Has anyone ever been in a similar situation? What did you do? Is there a directory of ethical, sustainable companies in Canada in need of software engineers?

catccc

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Re: Working in advertising and conflicted about it. Advice?
« Reply #1 on: June 09, 2016, 01:02:34 PM »
I work for a non-profit and make the best salary I've ever made.  It's not a charitable non-profit, though, it's falls under IRS 501c6 regulations, grouped as Business Leagues, Chambers of Commerce, Real Estate Boards, etc.

So not all non-profits are low on dough.

But really, advertisements are a part of life in our culture, I don't think you need to feel badly about it.  You can't change other people, it's up to individuals how much ads affect them.  Individuals decide what they value, and if for me it's a nice vacation, but for someone else it's a designer handbag, so be it.  Ad campaigns can also be used to spread "good"- think public service announcement type stuff, or campaigns to discourage teens from smoking.  That kind of thing.

Besides that, IDK about you, but my job is a means to an end.  I like what I do.  I contribute to the organizations goals.  But this is NOT my contribution to the world.  That stuff happens outside of work, when I teach my kids to be kind, or offer to load an elderly couple's ikea goodies into their car for them.  Your contribution doesn't need to be a big, career driven thing.  It can be whatever fills your buckets (or someone else's).

undercover

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Re: Working in advertising and conflicted about it. Advice?
« Reply #2 on: June 09, 2016, 02:09:37 PM »
Advertising things goes against what I believe in, I feel bad influencing people to buy things they can't afford/don't need and further encouraging this spiral of consumerism + debt.

I think your general aversion to advertising is a bit unfounded. There would be no economy without advertising. There's no way for someone to know that you're selling something (whether a product or a service) unless you advertise. Advertising in itself isn't the cause of consumerism/people spiraling into debt...that's more of a societal issue. Advertising and consumerism are not mutually exclusive. They can and will exist without one another.

I can understand your stance on not wanting to be involved in campaigns that don't always align with your points of views and such, but that's just life in my opinion.

Tris Prior

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Re: Working in advertising and conflicted about it. Advice?
« Reply #3 on: June 09, 2016, 02:12:50 PM »
I know how you feel, a little. I never worked in advertising, but I worked in retail selling things that people absolutely did not need. It felt morally wrong sometimes. And one reason why I'm not doing my handmade jewelry side business much these days is the cognitive dissonance between trying to lead a Mustachian and fairly minimalist lifestyle myself, and having to convince people to buy my jewelry which is in NO way a need.

One can argue that people are going to consume regardless of advertising, and as long as you're not being deceptive or trying to get people to buy stuff that's actively going to harm them, it's OK. And there's probably some truth in that. I just didn't see it that way personally.

Anyway, I got out and I'm now in a job that involves absolutely no sales or marketing of any kind - but my situation's different than yours; I was retail so pretty much anything was going to be a step up salarywise.

ketchup

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Re: Working in advertising and conflicted about it. Advice?
« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2016, 02:17:28 PM »
I wouldn't feel bad, and I say that as someone that hates advertising and avoids it in all forms to the extent practical (no "real" TV, no radio, adblocker in web browser, etc).  If you don't do the job, someone else will.

I'm a software developer, I work for a company that enables any company to set up an ad campaign. Think AdWords. We are also able to track people around the internet, across websites and even across devices. We usually know everything about them: sex, race, age, income, interests, household size... While we follow the industry's (self established) best practices re privacy and won't run any illegal ads, I feel conflicted.
I am curious though how this works.  Is it just based on Google's (or whoever) "profile" they build of a person based on their search habits?  I know that advertisers legitimately do know all that information, but I guess I'm curious of the nuts and bolts of how it's gathered.

sistastache

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Re: Working in advertising and conflicted about it. Advice?
« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2016, 02:36:44 PM »
I can relate to your situation.  I was in a position that required me to teach others how to sell premium products. This made my inner MMM want to vomit.

I had some conversations with others and definitely heard the sentiment that people are going to buy what they are going to buy, and I should just get over it.  But that didn't do anything to help me with the disconnect I was feeling.  So I did some research about purchase motivators to the affluent, and people in general.  Through this, I found the main reasons that people buy  seems to boil down to the person seeing it as an investment (gold, real estate, stocks etc.) or because it was an emotional purchase. 

The emotional buyer is seeking, through that purchase, a feeling of accomplishment (where just by owning the thing, they acquire a feeling of achievement), or status.  For example, you can buy a Fruit of the Loom three pack of men's white cotton jersey t-shirts for under $10.  Or, you can buy a Burberry white cotton jersey t-shirt for $80.  It's the same material, and it does the same job.  If you look at some of the marketing for Burberry, it has celebrity endorsement.  It's young, cool, edgy, sexy... whereas Fruit of the Loom's campaign is guys in fruit suits.  There is nothing sexy about guys in fruits suits.  Or that emotional buyer is purchasing for the experience. E.g. "I stood in line, for three days, in the snow to be the first to own *thing*" (and the entire saga is documented for everyone to see and share in the experience via social media).

This discovery really helped me with the disconnect, because while *I* am motivated to purchase when I see something as an investment, not everyone is that way.  Props to those emotional purchasers; if that person wants a story, and the only way they see to get it is to buy *thing*, then I'm happy to create that story for them.  Everyone wins.

Choices

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Re: Working in advertising and conflicted about it. Advice?
« Reply #6 on: June 09, 2016, 06:29:49 PM »
What about the companies you believe in that use your product? The tools you provide don't always have to be used for promoting massive waste and selfishness--we all truly need to buy things sometimes, and even good companies need to advertise or we won't know they exist.

badgerbadgerbadger

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Re: Working in advertising and conflicted about it. Advice?
« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2016, 09:52:24 AM »
I wouldn't feel bad, and I say that as someone that hates advertising and avoids it in all forms to the extent practical (no "real" TV, no radio, adblocker in web browser, etc).  If you don't do the job, someone else will.

I'm a software developer, I work for a company that enables any company to set up an ad campaign. Think AdWords. We are also able to track people around the internet, across websites and even across devices. We usually know everything about them: sex, race, age, income, interests, household size... While we follow the industry's (self established) best practices re privacy and won't run any illegal ads, I feel conflicted.
I am curious though how this works.  Is it just based on Google's (or whoever) "profile" they build of a person based on their search habits?  I know that advertisers legitimately do know all that information, but I guess I'm curious of the nuts and bolts of how it's gathered.

Well I can't go into too much detail because NDAs etc, but it's usually data correlated from all your online profiles. If you browse almost any website while logged into Facebook, LinkedIn and/or Google; websites that have either the "share on FB" button or the Google Analytics snippet in their headers will let those entities know you browsed this website and it wants to show you an ad.

FB etc will then prepare a "bid request" for an ad that will include all the data they have about you so the ad can be as targeted as possible. It will then send this to an ad exchange where companies that want to show ads will decide how much they want to pay to show their ad to that particular person with these particular interests etc. The highest bidder wins and an ad is shown. Because that's where the money is, every website will do their utmost to leak as much data as they can about you so they are able to fetch more targeted (and thus better paying) ads to show you.

It is also possible to infer the missing bits about you, your interests, and demographics using statistics and the websites you visit. For example, since FB or Google are embedded on almost every major website in the world, they know exactly which URL you visit, which newspaper articles you read etc. This helps building a more accurate profile about you. Some data they don't have can be inferred too: if you browse a lot of football, cars and men's magazines, chances are you are a male between 25-44 with such and such income etc.

I'm not helping to make the world better, really. Someone else will do it if I don't, sure. But same goes for working at big tobacco or say a slaughter house if you're an animal rights activist etc.

mozar

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Re: Working in advertising and conflicted about it. Advice?
« Reply #8 on: June 18, 2016, 04:24:12 PM »
Well if it makes you feel any better, I don't browse while I'm logged into Facebook,linkedin or google, and I have adblockers. So I see no ads on my laptop. I've looked up some data on myself and I apparently am a man over 50 (I'm neither, lol).

I think almost all jobs are tainted. That's one of the reasons I work for the federal government. But some people hate the government. So there's not much you can do, besides become a monk.

Emg03063

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Re: Working in advertising and conflicted about it. Advice?
« Reply #9 on: June 23, 2016, 08:40:34 PM »
Take a little of your surplus cash and use it to run an anti-consumerist PSA campaign through your company's service.  Problem solved.

Case

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Re: Working in advertising and conflicted about it. Advice?
« Reply #10 on: June 24, 2016, 05:39:02 AM »
Hi,

I'm a software developer, I work for a company that enables any company to set up an ad campaign. Think AdWords. We are also able to track people around the internet, across websites and even across devices. We usually know everything about them: sex, race, age, income, interests, household size... While we follow the industry's (self established) best practices re privacy and won't run any illegal ads, I feel conflicted.

Advertising things goes against what I believe in, I feel bad influencing people to buy things they can't afford/don't need and further encouraging this spiral of consumerism + debt. Or planting political ideas into people's mind that I don't necessarily agree with. It's also not what I want my contribution to the world to be.

The money is very nice though and definitely above market for my position. If I were to move elsewhere, I'd probably take a 15-20% salary hit.

I'd much rather work for a non-profit or an organization doing good and helping people. I'm under the impression these organizations don't have a lot of money though and that I'd be working below market rates.

Has anyone ever been in a similar situation? What did you do? Is there a directory of ethical, sustainable companies in Canada in need of software engineers?

I can definitely see where you are coming; I could not look back on my career and feel satisfied or accomplished with such a career.

Only you can decide what you can live with, and what sort of professional/ethical satisfaction you need.  If you decide against it, then it may very well be worth it to switch careers to find one more satisfying.  On the other hand, you could race towards FIRE and once you get there embark on a new career going against advertising... or just retire and say to hell with it, and try to enjoy life.  For me, personally, on the path towards FIRE it's important that I try my best to have a satisfying career where I feel like I'm making a meaningful contribution to the world.  If you do decide to leave the current career, definitely line things up before actually quitting.
« Last Edit: June 24, 2016, 05:47:21 AM by Case »

Case

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Re: Working in advertising and conflicted about it. Advice?
« Reply #11 on: June 24, 2016, 05:42:03 AM »
I can relate to your situation.  I was in a position that required me to teach others how to sell premium products. This made my inner MMM want to vomit.

I had some conversations with others and definitely heard the sentiment that people are going to buy what they are going to buy, and I should just get over it.  But that didn't do anything to help me with the disconnect I was feeling.  So I did some research about purchase motivators to the affluent, and people in general.  Through this, I found the main reasons that people buy  seems to boil down to the person seeing it as an investment (gold, real estate, stocks etc.) or because it was an emotional purchase. 

The emotional buyer is seeking, through that purchase, a feeling of accomplishment (where just by owning the thing, they acquire a feeling of achievement), or status.  For example, you can buy a Fruit of the Loom three pack of men's white cotton jersey t-shirts for under $10.  Or, you can buy a Burberry white cotton jersey t-shirt for $80.  It's the same material, and it does the same job.  If you look at some of the marketing for Burberry, it has celebrity endorsement.  It's young, cool, edgy, sexy... whereas Fruit of the Loom's campaign is guys in fruit suits.  There is nothing sexy about guys in fruits suits.  Or that emotional buyer is purchasing for the experience. E.g. "I stood in line, for three days, in the snow to be the first to own *thing*" (and the entire saga is documented for everyone to see and share in the experience via social media).

This discovery really helped me with the disconnect, because while *I* am motivated to purchase when I see something as an investment, not everyone is that way.  Props to those emotional purchasers; if that person wants a story, and the only way they see to get it is to buy *thing*, then I'm happy to create that story for them.  Everyone wins.

This is totally an example of legitimizing your own internal conflict in order to trick yourself into feeling better.

Jack

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Re: Working in advertising and conflicted about it. Advice?
« Reply #12 on: June 24, 2016, 07:21:00 AM »
Marketers are evil sociopaths, whose entire function is to trick and brainwash you into making bad decisions. You should sabotage your employer as badly as you can, then flee to a country that doesn't extradite to Canada.

(Just kidding... sort of. Don't actually do it, or at least, don't tell law enforcement that I suggested it! Because I am explicitly not actually suggesting it. BRB, there's a black van outside and somebody's knocking on my door...)

Anyway--!

I, too, had a job I didn't feel ethically satisfied about (I was a traffic engineer, working on projects that facilitated suburban sprawl because I couldn't find a job designing bike paths.) I changed industries to software engineering and now write CAD software. I'm much happier!

Is it just based on Google's (or whoever) "profile" they build of a person based on their search habits?  I know that advertisers legitimately do know all that information, but I guess I'm curious of the nuts and bolts of how it's gathered.

Get the Firefox extension Lightbeam and you'll be able to see exactly how it works.

Then get RequestPolicy Continued so you can block all of it.

Fishindude

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Re: Working in advertising and conflicted about it. Advice?
« Reply #13 on: June 24, 2016, 07:37:40 AM »
This is funny !
Hate the work and feel bad about it, but can't turn down and / or addicted to the money.

Sounds to me like your inner self is a greedy capitalist   :)