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Online Shopping Causes “Vampire Economics”

I first heard of this term on radio during the UK report on a morning show. Unfortunately I was unable to find the podcast of this topic, because I would have loved to link it to this post. Basically the reporter was talking about how online advertising companies are studying consumer traits and their online behaviours therefore targeting them according to their weaknesses. For example they would look at a specific consumer who suffers from insomnia and is often browsing through online stores in the early hours of the morning; in this case an advertising company would put as many adverts during that time in the hopes of luring that consumer to make a purchase. Another example would be advertising companies targeting shopaholics, alcoholics or even people suffering from mental illnesses, during their vulnerable state to ensure they purchase something online. 

This type of conduct by advertising companies is called vampire economics, because they are desperately trying to “suck some life” out of consumers to get as much as they can of what’s left for themselves (The Standard, 2009). Consumers are being savaged by “parasite” advertising techniques and the sad reality is that it is a growing pheromone worldwide.

The vampire economics concept should not be confused to the vampire effect in advertising. The vampire effect in advertising is using devices to grab “suck” consumer’s attention away from the main message of the advert (Kuvita & Karlíček, 2014). These devises are normally unrelated to the product, for example celebrity endorsements are to some extent an example of the vampire effect in advertising. In my opinion this advertising concept is not that big in South Africa as yet, because consumers are not easily swayed in their purchases due to the fact that consumption is mostly based on preference and not necessarily on celebrity influence.

As much as South Africa is considered a 3rd world country, there is a vast growth in terms of online shopping (well not as fast as the UK or any other 1st world country). Hence I am worried about “vampire economics” affecting South Africans in the near future, because I have personally noticed that whenever I am surfing the net, I always come across adverts that are in a way targeted to me. However I hardly buy things online so I cannot advocate for “vampire economics” in South Africa. Another thing is that online shopping is not that big amongst the middle and lower class so we hardly hear reports of consumer’s vulnerability being used against them. But it does not mean it is not happening just because it is hardly reported, hence we should not relax and think we are not affected by such business practice as technology changes every day and one can never be certain.

I wish I had concrete advice to give to online consumers to protect them from “blood sucking” advertising tactics. All I can say for now is that consumers must be more vigilant and not give in to temptations of purchasing all the time. The Consumer Protection Act is very adamant in enforcing the Right to Equality in the Consumer Market and Protection against Discriminatory Marketing Practices (Wronski, 2012). Therefore South African consumers are strongly protected by the law; the challenge is proving that consumers are subject to “vampire economics”.

 On the contrary, a part of me understands why businesses would conform to this type of advertising as they are driven by maximising profit. But does it really have to be at the expense of their customers? I wonder what happened to conducting business in an ethical manner, because it seems like minimising costs and maximising profit forcing vendors to lose their integrity.
ReferencesKuvita,T. & Karlíček,M. (2014). The Risk of Vampire Effect in Advertisements Using Celebrity Endorsement. Central European Business Review, 3(3):16-22.  Available from: http://cebr.vse.cz/cebr/article/viewFile/139/100Mathemagican 2009. Vampire Economics. The Standard.  Available from: https://thestandard.org.nz/vampire-economics/Wronski, M. 2012. Consumer Protection Act: Your Ultimate Free Guide. Mike Wronski.
  Available from: http://www.mikewronski.co.za/2012/01/09/consumer-protection-act-ultimate-guide/

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