Selling Internet Usage

Thanks, Senate Republicans, for eliminating the regulation prohibiting ISPs from commoditizing individual’s internet usage. The headlines I’ve seen for the past day (“your internet browsing history can now be sold”) fail to take into account how well targeted advertising works … and the real world answer seems to be ‘it depends on how targeted’. Target, many years ago, ran some experimental ad campaigns based on data mining predictions. A combination of purchases indicate that a woman is pregnant — and reality about dealing with a baby mean that whatever you start doing is apt to be the thing you do for a few years. Buy diapers at Target pre-birth, and Target has your diaper business for a few years. So identifying pregnant individuals and getting their initial business is a huge boon.

Except people don’t like when you know something deeply personal about them — especially something they have not yet told their friends. Or found out about their kids — a man became quite irate when a “congrats, here are a bunch of coupons for baby things for you” flyer arrived for his daughter. His underage and certainly not pregnant daughter. The man expressed his anger to a manager at the local Target store. And had to ring the manager back later, after his daughter broke the news to her family. A company knew his daughter was pregnant before she braved telling her parents. I’m sure some adults found the flyers equally upsetting – how do they know?? I only told my husband and our parents … are they bugging our phones!?! Target ended up creating customized general flyers that happened to include a few coupons for baby stuff … along side chain saws, motor oil, and grills. Effective, but didn’t freak out potential customers.

My point being – companies don’t want to alienate potential customers. I search for a particular yarn online, and a few days later a flyer shows up for that yarn … I now have creepy negative feelings about the company sending the flyer.

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