Personalization vs. privacy. Behavioral targeting vs. big brother. When does it get creepy?

It’s rare that I catch myself being a full-fledged
I’m not talking about the guy who has not spent the last 25 years in sales
marketing – the guy who has not spent studying and writing books and
about online marketing since 1993 – the guy who does not climb all over
random video to bask in the glory of the Old Spice Guy. But it happened

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

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

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.”