Hulu has this nifty feature called “Ad Tailor“. The concept is great: tell Hulu which ads are and aren’t relevant to you and they’ll use that information to show you more relevant advertising in the future. It’s a win for users, since we don’t have to see ads for products we would never buy. It’s a win for advertisers, since they don’t have to pay to advertise to people who would never be interested in their product. And it’s a win for Hulu; at least in theory (I don’t know about practice), they should be able to make more money off of targeted advertising.

The problem is, it doesn’t seem to work.

I don’t drink. The only alcohol I’ve ever consumed is communion wine. I don’t plan to drink. I won’t get into my reasons here, but suffice it to say, advertising alcoholic products to me is a waste of money. So I click on the “not relevant” button when these products are advertised to me.

Yet, I keep seeing these ads. Sometimes, I don’t even get a button to indicate my disinterest.

It’s not just about alcohol ads, but an algorithm, even a very naive one, should be able to pick up on that trend pretty easily.


I went to a Chicago Cubs game last year with a couple of friends. We had heard that the first 10,000 fans to arrive would be given free hats. My friends were really excited about this. They wanted their SWAG. Upon entering Wrigley Field, though, they were told they couldn’t get the hats because they weren’t 21. (One of them would be turning 21 two weeks later; the other, in about a month and a half.) Apparently, the hats were a promotion for an alcoholic beverage and people don’t much appreciate alcohol companies advertising to minors.

So, why do they keep advertising to me?