Michael Jackson’s death and the problem of contextual advertising ..

Michael Jackson.JPG

The above screenshot comes from a footage of Michael Jackson’s death as he was being rushed to hospital from his home.

Against this sad news is the surreal advertising of ‘Great seats for Michael Jackson at O2 Arena’

You could call such advertising bizarre or callous or sad or stupid..

But it reveals a larger problem which advertisers never acknowledge .. That it is simply not possible to capture context accurately and dynamically

A lesson for so many in the mobile industry who strive to capture context with the goal of monetizing it from advertisements.

While advertisers may want to make us believe otherwise .. The world does not need such advertisements and no one REALLY knows the context in real time!

PS: This is very sad news. I grew up in India where Micheal Jackson was (and is) very popular. This was very unexpected.


As we see large parts of the world unite to pay tribute to Michael Jackson, it is apt to read the news of the world’s oldest musical instrument (35,000 years ago)

Makes you think .. we see the same beliefs from 35,000 years ago even today

“Music was used in many kinds of social contexts: possibly religious, possibly recreational – much like we use music today in many kinds of settings.”

These flutes provide yet more evidence of the sophistication of the people that lived at that time

Professor Chris Stringer

The researchers also suggest that not only was music widespread much earlier than previously thought, but so was humanity’s creative spirit.

“The modern humans that came into our area already had a whole range of symbolic artifacts, figurative art, depictions of mythological creatures, many kinds of personal ornaments and also a well-developed musical tradition,” Professor Conard explained.

The team argues that the emergence of art and culture so early might explain why early modern humans survived and Neanderthals, with whom they co-existed at the time, became extinct.

“Music could have contributed to the maintenance of larger social networks, and thereby perhaps have helped facilitate the demographic and territorial expansion of modern humans relative to a culturally more conservative and demographically more isolated Neanderthal populations,” they wrote.


  1. Evegazu says:

    I have another example of contextual advertisment offering tickets to the concert nest to the new about Michael Jackson`s heart attack.
    Check this at:

  2. Zach Hurst says:

    This problem isn’t too difficult to fix. My good buddy owns a consumer intelligence company and he says “for example, the contextual ad application was utilizing a single table based upon main idea (or in this case – primary identity of the story). we would add another layer offering semantic parsing giving it a boost in IQ, if you will…
    [michael jackson] [+ hospital = bad]; exec secondary ad; generic”

  3. James Pearce says:

    In this (and many other cases – Iran for example), Google’s handle over quick moving trends and realtime content have been found wanting.
    If Twitter statuses were being used to infer relevance, do you think this mistake would have been made – even if the ad had been detected only seconds after his death?