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Facebook Thinks I am Fat and What Can I Do about It?

by Olive Huang  |  December 10, 2013  |  9 Comments

I am a conservative Facebook user. My Facebook profile is simple – no work, no family photos, no pictures of friend’s wedding or kids party. All I put on Facebook are photos of great Australian country landscapes, pets, and food.

Oh yes I love my food, I love cooking too. So yes I am one of those Asians you see in restaurants who take photos before touching every dish and post them online. I really enjoyed doing it until one day I found out Facebook thinks I am fat.

Here is the proof. You see every single ad on the side bar is about losing weight. Facebook thinks I have a fat belly and I should go on a weight watcher program.

Facebook thinks I am Fat

Facebook thinks I am Fat

I was a little bit annoyed. I may or may not have a fat belly but why should I allow Facebook to profile me? This is like you turn on the TV and watched one episode of “Australia’s biggest loser” and then all of sudden every TV ad in every channel asks you to buy a diet program.  So I started a small project called “clean my Facebook ads”.  I stopped posting any photos related to food but instead I posted about my dogs, cats and chickens. 3 weeks later, only half of the ads have changed into pet food but I still have plenty of fat bellies. Perhaps Facebook believes there is a correlation between people having pets and people who need to lose weight? Or my cats and dogs are not on the slim side so Facebook thinks their pack leader is the same?

I did’t like any of these theories so I was determined to beat the personalization engine behind it. Over the next weeks I tried plenty of other options, fashion, gardening, home decor, travel, books, paintings, but nothing could get me off the hook of weight watcher promotions.  One of my girlfriends told me I should try visiting some dating sites, as this is what happened to her that the dating ads are very sticky.  I haven’t done it yet as it is like you introduce one devil to beat another devil and also I don’t know how I am going to explain it to my husband when he sees my Facebook page.

“Personalization” is big these days. Thousands of companies are inventing and more companies are busy in implementing some sort of technologies to enable them to understand us more, in the space beyond what their traditional customer master database can provide. They then segment us, profile us, analyse our intent, and personalize the information to show they do understand what we want, and provide us the possibility to buy real time, on the go, before we put the product on our shopping list.

But as a consumer, I wonder if I can choose not to be analysed and profiled. As we casually browse the web, or wander on the high street, or sit at a cafe at the street corner minding our own business, can we put up a virtual sign of “leave me alone” or “do not disturb”? Or if we are being profiled, can we send a letter to tell them “you are wrong. I do not have a fat belly”?

Well I guess I will have to look at these weight watcher recipes for a long long time.

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Category: crm-software-industry  

Tags: australia  crm  personalization  social-marketing  social-media  software  

Olive Huang
Research Director
1 years at Gartner
16 years IT Industry

Olive Huang is a Research Director in Gartner Research and is part of the company's CRM software research team. Her research area focuses on customer services and support, contact centers, CRM vendors and service providers, and CRM strategy and best practices in the Asia/Pacific region. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Facebook Thinks I am Fat and What Can I Do about It?

  1. Ewww on the 5th advert. That would put me off my food (except cake of course).

  2. Li Shen says:

    Unfortunately, yes you have to bear the weight watchers for a while. It seems that Facebook is quite proud of their referral traffic performance which have a big jump this year through audience targeting. The third quarter reports show that the revenue from ad has a YoY growth of 66%!

  3. John says:

    Being single in my 40’s Facebook was doing the same thing to me, tons of dating ads, some targeted at 40 somethings, and some quite offensively advertising ‘young’ women after older guys. Yeah right.

    Anyway, I solved it by simply clicking on the X above each ad and marking it as offensive or not interesting, and they soon started disappearing.

    At this time I haven’t seen a dating ad for weeks. They do occasionally pop up, but easy to mark as bad.

  4. Olive, I love this blog, but you obviously haven’t passed the 40 mark, because then you will be bombarded with weight loss AND plastic surgery adverts. It’s the demographic generalizations that I struggle with – not all 40-something women are interested in the same things. Real personalization will be such a game-changer… one day soon I hope.

    My only way of coping with this new world – be as interesting as I can be, then they don’t know what to do with me. Also deleting the adds as John suggested certainly helps too.

    Nice blog. Keep it up!


  5. Gilbert Hill says:

    Interesting post, thanks for sharing. This illustrates the transaction that takes place when we visit Facebook or surf the ‘commercial’ web – data companies and advertising networks harvest our data to build personal profiles.

    There is big money to be made doing this; Garner estimated that in 2012, companies made $120 for every 1$ spent collecting and managing personal data. At the moment, we have no say in the matter, even if we are aware of what’s going on, and no share in the upside.

    This is a bugbear of mine, and I write more here:

  6. Reinald says:

    Olive, I really enjoy your posts – No matter if you are writing about Facebook or Software Trade Show in US, it always makes me smiling and I forget the stressful day for a moment!
    Hope to see you again, Reinald

  7. Geeta says:

    EXCELLENT article !!!
    Getting ahead of this’FBProfiling’ can be the next big thing .. Someone ought to beat Mark Z for this to create the next big DJI listing above FB though resulting to straining the $$$ of advertising industry.

    I love this post and captivating start off ‘FB thinks Iam FAT’ 🙂 Great article!!!

  8. Trevor says:

    I get the weight loss ads also Olive. And I never post anything on Facebook other than comments about other’s postings.
    I guess that concern about one’s weight is so common that the ads are bound to net a few folk.

    I have done a little (very little) survey of my own. I have been asking people if they have ever bought anything off an unsolicited ad on an internet page. I have never yet met anyone who has. So where is the value in the ads? Admittedly they come before millions of eyes, but does anyone actually read them. I doubt that they do.
    I think that the clever/funny E mail ads that go viral are much smarter.

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