Help! Intuit, Stride-Rite And Trupanion Won't Stop Stalking Me!

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.

8 comments about "Help! Intuit, Stride-Rite And Trupanion Won't Stop Stalking Me!".
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  1. Jeff Johnson from Acsys Interactive, January 25, 2013 at 4:03 p.m.

    IMHO smart marketers need to figure this out, and fast. Maybe all the "big data" hype will get around to addressing these things but what a big miss.

    I bought a sweater for my wife as a Christmas present from Nordstom. And lo and behold, what do I see everywhere in my "targeted ads". Yes, you guessed it. The same 'green' sweater.

    Um, hey Nordstroms, sorry to pick on you here. Lords knows there are others doing this same bad targeted. But can you at least show me a different color? If you know I looked at the green one, then you know I bought it. So surely you can know I am unlikely to buy two.

    Rant over. You struck a chord/nerve with this post!

  2. George Sloan from Customer Strategy Consulting, January 25, 2013 at 4:53 p.m.

    Oh, Catherine, you certainly struck a chord with me here, too. I find it so intrusive when I search for something, and within the hour ads are popping up on the subject I searched for. First time I recall noticing is when I searched for MS Home Server Software about 18 months ago, then I started to get ads for servers popping up all the time. Went on way past having decided I didn't want the set-up I was thinking about. What a complete waste of money for Tiger Direct, who was trying to sell me a server. Thank heavens I don't even use Facebook to look for anything.
    The intrusions seem to have disappeared once I installed a small app on Firefox called Track Me Not. It is from some folks at NYU. The concept is to overload search engines with random searches every few minutes. These searches go on in the background, without me ever knowing they are happening, other than seeing them in my status bar. The latest search terms have been "Have obtained Pirated" and "Obtained Pirated Content". It is amusing to see some of the rubbish searches they perform, but it seems to work as I see very few targeted ads these days. I am glad I was not the only one feel intruded upon!

  3. George Parker from Parker Consultants, January 25, 2013 at 5:22 p.m.

    Big Data = Big Bullshit... I needed a new DustBuster vacuum cleaner. Went on line, checked out the usual suspects, Found that by driving a couple of miles, I could buy it cheapest at Target by avoiding shipping costs etc. Did so. Since then... Three bloody months ago, I am bombarded by ads for DustBusters. Ctach 22 or Big Arseholes. It's a digerati conspiracy. Back to the quill pen.
    Cheers/George "AdScam" Parker

  4. Jeffrey Ringer from Arengee, January 26, 2013 at 2:59 p.m.

    Catharine, I think you've bugged my office. My business partner and I have been discussing - lamenting - this same topic for months, maybe even the past year.

    What I find really irritating are companies, like Dodge for instance, who know I bought a vehicle, what I bought, and where I bought it, yet still send me unrelated service emails as well as targeting me on the internet as if I am not already a customer.

    I have yet to sit with a Media Rep who can prove to me all this datamining is anything but an ediucated guess - the same educated guess we have been using when purchasing any media.

  5. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, January 28, 2013 at 8:55 a.m.

    The reason why you guys feel stalked is that you click very few adverts, so Facebook has very little data on you. This means, when it wants to deliver a targetted advert, this is likely to be for the same few companies. If you click some more adverts, either for companies that you like or just at random, the problem will go away.

  6. Cathy Taylor from MediaPost, January 28, 2013 at 9:32 a.m.

    Hi Pete,

    I get this from a technical perspective, but it's a sad commentary. I guess we should just go around distorting click data then?


  7. John Watkins from Watcom, January 28, 2013 at 2:47 p.m.

    Of course you could now go and delete your cookies on your computer. I know, you shouldn't have to do something to make the ads go away but that is a easy way to do it.

  8. Jeffrey Ringer from Arengee, January 28, 2013 at 3:56 p.m.

    Pete - that logic seems counter intuitive. If I click on an ad, wouldn't I give the advertiser more cause to stalk me? And as an Agency spending my clients money on media I hope there aren't a lot of people out there like you who think this way.

    John - yes, I can delete cookies for my Internet browsing but that doesn't effect Facebook ad stalking.

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