Privacy advocates may not be happy with brands tracking consumers online, but a Brazilian detergent brand is set to begin tracking customers in the real world. Starting next week, Omo is embedding 50 detergent boxes with GPS devices as part of a new video camera giveaway.

The campaign is sure to get Omo lots of attention, but the amount of privacy concessions necessary to make it all happen could prohibit GPS-enabled products from becoming a widely used marketing strategy.

The campaign is part of Omo’s larger marketing strategy of “Try Something New.” According to AdAge:

“Fifty Omo boxes implanted with GPS devices have been scattered around
Brazil, and Mr. Figueiredo has teams in 35 Brazilian cities ready to
leap into action when a box is activated. The nearest team can reach the shopper’s home ‘within hours or days,’
and if they’re really close by, ‘they may get to your house as soon as
you do,’ he said.

“Once there, the teams have portable equipment that lets them go floor by
floor in apartment buildings until they find the correct unit, he said.”

There are backup plans in place if things do not go smoothly with the unsuspecting customers. If the customer is hesitant to let the marketing team into his/her home, the group can “remotely activate a buzzer in the detergent box so that it
starts beeping.” And if something goes wrong with the search, or it takes too long, the boxes come equipped with a note explaining the promotion and prize offering (essentially the traditional approach to such things.)

But Omo and their promotions agency Bullet are mostly interested in documenting the entire thing. Omo’s products are already in 80% of Brazilian homes. This campaign is mostly intended to draw attention to the new stain-fighting Omo product.

The brand’s website, with the tagline “try something new,” in August will start documenting the details of the campaign, including a map with rough estimates of where the winners live, their
pictures and
video footage of the marketing team tracking down the owners of the GPS
detergent.

The campaign is sure to bring attention to Omo. The technology cost Omo about $1 million of its $23 million marketing
budget, which isn’t be too outlandish. Especially considering the amount of press the company is set to receive for its efforts. 

But there are a few reasons to think GPS products will not catch on.

Last summer, Bullet carried off a very successful embedded marketing campaign, by sticking iPods in boxes of Unilever Fruttare Popsicles. But a surprise iPod amidst a box of popsicles is different than a company tracking customers’ whereabouts.

The GPS plan basically uses a detergent purchase as implicit consent to be followed and taped. Sure, it’s a fun little campaign for Omo to try and pull off. 

And confused Omo customers aren’t likely to get too upset by the intrusion. But if this catches on, it would get old quickly. Sure, a free digital camera would be nice. But how many people want to be used as unpaid marketing extras for a product they didn’t ask for? Probably not many.