I am on Facebook.  In fact, I’ve had a profile on Facebook for about 5 years now (just writing that shocks and embarrasses me a little).

At first, like any college student on Facebook, the ability to connect with high school friends and browse through my current school’s “directory” of peers simultaneously, was incredibly exciting and entertaining.  But since then, my interest in the relationships we are able to build through Facebook has shifted a bit.  Facebook is not only a tool for social extension between individuals, but between brands, too.  Not everyone is sharing my excitement though.

A sense of worry and suspicion has begun to surround Facebook and the enormous pile of consumer information they sit on.  Yesterday, in WIRED’s “Your Facebook Profile Makes Marketers’ Dreams Come True,” Eliot Van Buskirk wrote:

“Never before have we voluntarily publicized so much of our personal data and consumption preferences, especially not in very structured ways that ease the work of marketer’s data scrapers.  And most of it accurately reflects what’s going on in our actual lives.  But the individualized nature of social networking profile pages means that some of the resulting marketing campaigns target specific individuals too, which is what concerns privacy advocates.”

I understand the concern over privacy, but should we (consumers) really be afraid of being marketed to in more relevant ways?  The way I see it, it is happening now and nobody seems to mind all that much.

Take Pandora: I enter “Jose Gonzalez” into Pandora and a mix of a dozen or so different (but similar) artists–most of which I have never heard of–is instantly streamed to my iPhone.  I love most of what Pandora creates for me, but I only come away purchasing ONE song (Sean Hayes’ “Rattelsnake Charm”) that day–the only one song I wanted to be sure I had “on-demand.”

Or, take Amazon: I search for Seth Goodin’s, “Tribes” on Amazon and I’m given a list of related titles.  A few of them I find particularly intriguing and I add them to my “Wishlist,” for future consideration, but I don’t buy any of them.

Sure, these are both niche channels, but they are also microcosms of this “personality aggregation” phenomenon.  They are perfect examples of an online network using my personal information and preferences as a way of delivering the most relevant products/services to me.  Does anyone really dislike this?

As Rob Walker explains in Buying In, we all want to feel like we belong.  Whether it’s through association with other like-minded people or through participation in activities we feel define us best–we want to belong, and brands and symbols help us satisfy this basic need.  Wouldn’t it be a positive thing if our interests (music, books, movies, TV, etc.) could be delivered to us in a more efficient way?  Wouldn’t this actually empower individuality?

Maybe we’re afraid of having more and more relevant products and services tempt us–I find it hard to believe we are that submissive.

Not very many, I would imagine.  If you are eight years old and are up at 10:30pm on a Monday and you are watching reruns of Seinfeld on TBS, your parents are twits.  But, regardless of whether or not Seinfeld has become a secret obsession of eight year olds around the world, this spot struck me because of how dissimilar the spokesperson is to the apparent target demographic.

We all know Microsoft is smart and isn’t blind to the fact that very few eight year olds are up at this hour.  In these tough economic times, we have to believe they are not just paying for random time slots without care or measure.  No, the “8 year old PC” spot IS meant for me and I think the stealthiness of it is brilliant.

At first, however, the “I’m a PC and (fill in the blank)”  campaign did not impress me.  In fact, I really didn’t like it.  Maybe it was because Microsoft abrubtly pulled Crispin’s first series of the brand’s “face-lift” (featuring Gates and Seinfeld, which were, in my opinion, too smart for the masses/TV) and replaced them with the apparent “Plan B.”  Maybe I was just annoyed they didn’t decide to go with “I’m a PC” from the get-go.  Either way, the first spot of the campaign seemed like Microsoft was crying about how Apple was making fun of them (via I’m a PC and I’m a Mac), and, in a certain light, seemed like they were desperately trying to win over the youth/creative culture.  It was a little embarrassing to watch.

Looking back though, these spots were just the “growing pains.”  Microsoft and Crispin have worked out the kinks and have started to unleash an onslaught of spots that are truly relevant, substantive and engaging.  These are the kinds of messages that, I think, will help to humanize and, ultimately, revitalize the Microsoft brand.

As someone in his mid-20s, I am not exactly amazed at the PCs capabilities (which the eight year old clearly demonstrates), but I am amazed at the kid’s creative spirit and technical knowledge of, and comfort with, the machine.  I may be part of the current creative culture, but I wasn’t mixing and editing movies when I was eight–my creativity was limited to “analog.”  This kid represents the future youth/creative culture that even I can’t totally relate to…they are “The Rookies.”

Microsoft, realized they couldn’t fake their presence in the current creative culture, so they decided to attach themselves to the future.  Not only do these capable youngsters–with their bright futures and enthusiastic attitudes–make us smile and feel warm and fuzzy, they remind us, even though you and I may be Macs, the future youth demographic is still fair game and could end up putting Microsoft and the “PC” world back on top.