Lately I feel like I’m being stalked. Not by anyone truly harmful, but by a troika of behaviorally targeted ads that miss the mark. It’s not because I haven’t recently visited the sites for the products that now follow me on the Web. I have. But if behavioral targeting is supposed to be some sort of silver bullet -- on Facebook and elsewhere -- I’m amazed at how it routinely fails to recognize whether I’m still in the purchase funnel, or was ever there in the first place.
As Facebook brings more and more behavioral targeting onto its platform, it would be prudent for it to set an example, by not treating behavioral targeting as the blunt instrument it more often than not is. So far, if the Sponsored Stories ads I saw on Facebook this morning are any guide, it hasn’t.
Here are the true stories of my AdStalkers:
1. Trupanion: Trupanion, if you don’t know it, sells pet insurance, which comes in handy when you discover that every time your cat has a run-in with that nasty cat down the street, it results in a $500 medical bill. So, I finally found myself in the market for pet insurance, and bought it. In November. Online, where it should be easy to track. And yet, there was Trupanion in Sponsored Stories again this morning, as though I was still in the consideration phase instead of having slid out of the funnel a while ago. (I’ve since been served a second Trupanion ad today on Facebook.)
2. Intuit Quickbase: This is what I’d call a work group product that one of my non-MediaPost clients uses, and, yes, when I’m working on a project for them, I log into it, multiple times a day. Which would seem to indicate that I’m already using it, and not in the market to subscribe to it, right? But no matter; I’m sure that today -- on Facebook or elsewhere -- QuickBase will try to sell itself to me again.
3. Stride-Rite: Yes, a kids’ shoe store. I went to its store locator a few weeks ago because, according to the site of another shoe brand, the Stride-Rite store in Yonkers carried it. (Drove all the way there, and they didn’t, but that’s another story.) I am no longer in the market for shoes.
You see the pattern. Nay, you know the pattern. You have seen it yourself all over the Web, so maybe it’s unfair to focus on Facebook. But, as the social platform goes into new targeting territory, exploiting things like your behavior outside of Facebook, I’d hope it would pursue a more nuanced approach. Behavioral targeting means little when all it seems to know is that you once visited an advertiser’s home page
Back in October, when Facebook announced that it was going to add Datalogix’ purchasing data to its targeting efforts, it crowed that it could use that data to figure out how to serve ads the optimum number of times. If my experience is any guide, it -- and sites all over the Web -- have a long ways to go.