Want to buy a big ticket item like a house or a car? You need one of two things: cold hard cash or good credit.

But it's possible that your credit score may impact more than what you can buy. In the near future, your credit score could be used to dictate what ads you see when you're browsing the web.

In the United States Google is currently experimenting with the application of FICO credit scores.

Before you get too concerned about privacy, it's not exactly what you might be thinking. Here's how it works: Google teamed up with web analytics firm Compete. Using the data collected from Compete's panel, Google tracked the search behavior of participants who applied for a credit card between January and March of this year.

What did Google find?

According to MediaPost, Masha Korsunsky of Google says that "Google's Content Network can reach 70% of credit card applicants with a high FICO score, 87% of mortgage applicants with a high FICO score, and 90% of the people who visit small business sites who have a high FICO score".

Perhaps the most interesting discovery: participants with high FICO scores were more likely to search for generic search terms instead of branded search terms when it came to credit card-related searches. The same may be true in other areas and internet marketers could surely make use of such insights.

So could Google roll out an offering that lets advertisers target using credit score data? Sure. But as far as credit score-based ad targeting going mainstream in a big way, I wouldn't hold my breath.

While it could be an interesting offering for Google and could be of interest to digital marketers, I think getting a large enough sample to make a compelling product would be hard. There are also very real limits to what credit scores can and can't tell you. As we've seen through the global recession, credit scores can change very rapidly and oftentimes, they're a poor reflection of the true financial status of a consumer. While Google is, of course, interested in the aggregate and not the individual, the point is that lots of companies made bad assumptions about how important credit scores are and as a targeting tool, I think the same sort of mistakes could be made.

Photo credit: Clemson via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 29 June, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (3)


Tom Ollerton

I think this is an exciting new perspective on customer experience and wonder how it will fit in with the development of APML http://www.apml.org/endusers/overview/

Giving the search monsters the permission to access your searching/buying/blogging habits in order to guide you away from irrelevant products combined with a service that prevents you seeing what you can't afford is an exciing proposition. This is making the browser into a rational online PA guiding you away from annoyances and leaving infront of you only what will please you.

There is a future where we could forget this technology is being used providing fodder for big brother conspiracy blogs worldwide.

Tom Ollerton

Ale 2.0

about 9 years ago


David Prince, Web Marketeer at Fish.Net

Indeed an interesting development in targetted advertising.  However, I would exercise caution in implementing such a tactic in an advertising campaign. 

The campaign types it is likely to help will often have a brand element of aspiration.  A high ticket car, for example, may be out of reach for the majority of the population, but it's important that the premium quality is communicated.

Similarly with credit cards - a platinum card with its associated perks is an aspirational product, and great care is taken to cultivate the premium nature of the prduct.

Broad advertising provides both the aspiration and one-up-man-ship of those who have the ability to fund the purchase.  Imagine a world where the Ferrari brand isn't particulary visible to relatively cash-poor youngsters, but will turn into the business leaders of tomorrow!


about 9 years ago


bad credit fix repair

OK, If my credit score isn't high enough to see this ad, then what should I do to fix my bad credit ?

over 8 years ago

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