Monday, January 28, 2008

There Are No Online Coincidences

I did some shopping this past weekend for flat screen teevees. Claiming ignorance on the entire television revolution, my main goal was to begin the research process and attain some education on what’s available. I visited my local electronics store to check out the picture quality and attempted to view multiple screens at once to determine which had superior colors and clarity. I was helped by a young but knowledgeable salesperson, who provided some basic information. Yet, the real research began at home when I visited numerous sites (e.g., Digital Advisor, Cnet,, offering reviews, rankings and recommendations for my soon-to-be new household appliance.

The next day I logged into Facebook and was somewhat surprised to see a wall posting inviting me to sign up to win a 52” Samsung LCD tv. Samsung was one of the brands that I was considering but the big 52” was outside my budget, so I figured that I might as well sign up for the sweepstakes to see if could win one. I navigated from the landing page through the site to get more info and found myself trapped, with no navigation to the sweepstakes page and no back option. I revisited Facebook and clicked the link again only to have it timeout with a page failure. I repeated the process twice with recurring failures and noted that the page timed out because ads from DoubleClick failed to render. Despite the poor navigation and failed page loads, I still made my way back to the site to volunteer my personal information to Samsung on the thin hope that I might be the lucky winner of that teevee. They got me…but at a price that I was willing to pay for the promise of the teevee version of Ed McMahon knocking at my door.

So the behavioral targeting worked for me, but got me thinking that there are really no more coincidences on the Web. With ubiquitous technologies like Google and DoubleClick, all of my actions and behavior is catalogued and used – for me/against me; take your pick – at a later time. Despite the fact that this conjures up some irksome feelings of privacy invaded and innocence lost …the tactic worked. So like it or hate it, targeting is effective. But the next time someone tells you that they couldn’t believe what a coincidence it was that they discovered such-and-such online – you can offer a wry smile and enlighten them to the ways of the Web. It’s all planned and they’re working us like marionettes.

PostScript: stay tuned and I’ll tell you about the teevee we buy. Have you experienced any online “coincidences” as a result of behavioral targeting?

No comments: