I love data mining….as long as it isn’t my data being mined!

Having worked in social media since before it was called social media – i have quite a few friends and colleagues who have built entire companies around the idea of data mining. In 1994, when i started to work on overseeing the build of a consumer database for the first time, I remember the excitement around finally being able to communicate directly to people about things they would want to hear about.

Somewhere at some point someone had told me that the difference between marketing and sales was this: a salesperson sells you something you dont need and a marketer tells you about something you might like. I personally always liked to think of myself as the marketer. And then – email, the click to buy button, the add to cart button, conversion rates etc…marketers became sales people. one by one by one we fell. Yet – all this data mining – the ability to take all our junior sociologist/anthropologist tendencies and put them to actual work making money? How could you not! All those salespeople always asking what marketing people actually DID all day! Harumph!

I read the journal article linked at the end of this post and it really hit home for me. I’ve been shopping online for a dress to wear to a friend’s wedding. Rather than drive all over town, spend hours in traffic – i am that online shopper that fully takes advantage of free shipping and returns. My bedroom is the dressing room, the UPS man my personal helper that brings me another size or color.

I AM FREAKED OUT LATELY BECAUSE I AM BEING FOLLOWED ONLINE BY SHOES AND DRESSES AND COOKWARE.

I use like.com (not to be confused with ilike.com for music) – visual search shopping when you want to see every navy blue maxi length dress in the world? It’s amazing! Best deal on that particular marc jacobs dress or want to monitor the sale price of a cashmere sweater? Bow down to shopstyle. These are PHENOMENAL shopping/marketing/CRM tools.

But then – it happens. I go to a blog, i’m reading a hard core diatribe about some new technology and there in the corner…..a banner…..scrolling through black suede boots – the very shoes i was looking at yesterday — like the devil – like a stranger offering me candy at school!

I finally decided to click on the “i” for information on how in the world this company was achieving this. And it wasn’t just every once in a while…it was everything lately – i shopped for a gift of kitchenware, visions of all clad dancing in the corners, – it was anytime i did a search on anything it seemed.

I hated it. And I loved it.  Criteo.

You geniuses. You peeping Toms. how dare you peep while I am bra shopping online!  After clicking on the “i” in the banner ad I was told I could remove the Criteo tracking tool from my computer….after i downloaded a  PDF and spend a half hour removing it! This is so NOT the 2 clicks “unsubscribe me” button that we now take for granted to opt out of anything at any time quickly and easily (thank you DMA).

It was maddening – i didn’t have time to put on my “IT Guy” hat and dig into find the hidden file. It’s still there. Oh what the hell – I thought – I do this for a living I shouldn’t remove it – I need to understand.

I found the press release. It wasn’t just my paranoia – it WAS in fact happening more and more because on APril 9th, 2010 Criteo moved its offices from Paris France to Palo Alto. They hired 20 US salespeople. They have two US data centers.

And it’s working. And I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. I want an unsubscribe button. Black pumps are a distraction I don’t need when I’m doing research on mobile video content delivery. I’d like to decide when I’m going to shop and when I’m going to work without having to spend a halfhour programming my computer for each site. Maybe even just a “not now” button in the corner of the banner.

I’m just not strong enough to ignore the shoes in the corner.

Here’s the article:

THE DANGERS OF WEB TRACKING – THE GREAT PRIVACY DEBATE BY NICOLAS CARR FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL.

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