Simon Read's article last week highlighting the altogether sinister practice of placing branches of payday lenders in close proximity to (and in some cases next door to) bookmakers did little to quell the sense of unease I feel whenever a business waves its product under my nose. Not that I hate products. I just hate being marketed to.
And while my aversion to being crammed into a demographic may not have the unsettling undertones of licensed loan sharks dangling "free" money under the noses of gamblers – and in some cases facilitating their compulsion – the notion of businesses tailoring their efforts to suit what they perceive to be my needs still puts my back up.
I hate that, during football matches, the adverts will be a parade of male-themed products and services. I am a man, so evidently I drink beer with my mates, high-fiving each one with gusto every four seconds; I also apparently want to have as close a shave as David Beckham, pictured, and get inordinately excited when I see slow-motion footage of the new Audi shimmering through a Tuscan village square, causing the local pigeons to flutter en masse in photogenic splendour. Furthermore, I hate that, during Loose Women breaks, every advert will be for shampoo, Galaxy chocolate, Lambrini fizzy wine or nappies.
My nightmare future would be that envisaged by Steven Spielberg in his film Minority Report, where Tom Cruise's character, cop John Anderton, gets personally targeted by billboards as he is walking through the city's underground system. Here and there are devices which scan his retina, meaning that each poster he passes is aware of who he is, what he does and his entire purchase history.
As he walks along, disembodied Mad Men voices say things like: "Hey, John Anderton, you look like you could use a Guinness!" or "Hey, John Anderton, it must be time for you to buy some more coffee!"
Anderton doesn't even react to the soliciting, as he is probably used to it. But the very thought of this makes me want to go and live in a cave in the Arctic Circle. But, as sure as peanuts are peanuts, this is the future. In years to come, placing a payday lender next to a bookies will seem gauche and clunky; far too obvious. I would expect that, in the future, the payday lender will give you a voucher for a £10 bet with every loan taken out, as long as you go to the bookies next door. Likewise, the bookies will suggest a horse you may want to bet on, as its jockey went to your school or the nag shares the same name as your childhood dog.
Won't happen? It already is…