Personalization vs. privacy. Behavioral targeting vs. big brother. When does it get creepy?
It's rare that I catch myself being a full-fledged consumer. I'm not talking about the guy who has not spent the last 25 years in sales and marketing - the guy who has not spent studying and writing books and lecturing about online marketing since 1993 - the guy who does not climb all over every random video to bask in the glory of the Old Spice Guy. But it happened again today.
The Barrett Strong version is a classic, but I'm more enamored of the Beatle rendition of "Money (That's What I Want)." It's just the way I am. And because I am that way, Pandora told the makers of the yet-to-be-released all electric Leaf that I might like to see an ad for the car I've been waiting for.
I had heard about the Leaf. I had seen pictures of the Leaf. I had been to the Toyota website more than a few times waiting for the full story to be revealed. I wanted to know when this thing is going to go on the market. I already own a Prius and am desperate to dump the SUV taking up all the rest of the space in the garage.
So here I am, enjoying some soothing melodies and a few rockin' pneumonia tunes on Pandora on my iPhone. When I went to give "Money (That's What I Want)" a thumbs-up, I see an ad at the bottom of the screen that says "Meet the future" with a picture of a Leaf! I've been waiting to meet this car and here it is, in the palm of my hand!
I clicked on it and consumed everything there was about this car that fits my wallet, my world view, and my garage. I read the specs. I played the videos. I entered to win one! I even entered my name and email address to reserve one. I am serious about wanting to test drive one of these cars.
Then I went over to the Toyota website to try and find when this puppy is going to be available. It was then, after being nonplussed that there was NOTHING on the site at all about this car, that I noticed something that floored me. It's not made by Toyota. It's a Nissan product.
I knew the model name, but not the brand.
I am hot to trot for this product and totally misinformed about where to look for it. Rack up a major #fail for the media planners and buyers, magazine ad people and direct mail types and a major win for the mobile marketing team.
So how did they find me?
Pandora uses a patented algorithm to assess the songs I like and find others that fit into the same "DNA" range. Tempo, style, lyrics, era, you name it. And based on that, they can offer me up to Nissan on a silver platter. The more people like me who consume the Nissan Leaf app from Pandora, the better Pandora can target ads and the higher the ROI on their ad spend.
Some of my (non-internet-marketing) friends shudder when I tell them this story. "Creepy," they say. "Invasion of privacy!" they holler. "No, that's not for me," they insist. But they'll fall for it too as long as they don't have to watch how this sausage is being made. As soon as they see an ad for something that interests them, they will click.
This is not about being tracked and harassed. This is about being served. I gladly tell Amazon that I am a voracious John Grisham reader and am pleased when they recommend something else. But when my taste in music brings me together with a product I've been anxiously waiting for all I can say, "That's what I want."