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Adverts Are Following ME! - 28/10/2010

Recently I went to the Halfords website to see if they sold 35/35w motorcycle headlamp bulbs for the 125. Surprisingly the did! Even more surprisingly the local Halfords had them in stock…however I digress.

After my successful shopping trip I noticed for the next week or so, when I was surfing around the interweb there were adverts for Halfords 35/35w bulbs everywhere. I am familiar with the concept of targeted marketing, but how were motorcycle bulb adverts appearing on websites about ASP.NET problems, TV listings and Science?

Technical logic dictates that there must be something “left over” from my visit to the Halfords site. I’m familiar with cookies, so that must be it. The Halfords site will have placed a cookie that is accessible to any other website that uses the same advertising medium. This gets a little creepy. Cookies are actually essential for some things to work properly on the internet. Such things as not having to log in EVERY time you collect your emails or visit Facebook (face ache). Even so cookies can be used to track your internet activity, which many people would object to.

Marketers will tell you that targeted marketing is a good thing. There’s no point advertising motorcycle parts to those not interested in motorcycles. OK, fair point. But I don’t expect to briefly look for parts once in my life to then be constantly followed by a string of adverts begging me to buy more. To be frank, I don’t really like adverts of any kind.

Yet this is the future we face. Imagine a future where all advertising is targeted. Imagine you’ve just purchased a pet dog with your credit card. The credit card company sells this information to the marketers. As you drive away with the pup peeing on the back seat your mobile phone company is selling your position to the marketers too. The billboard ahead of you changes to a pet food advert. All the billboards on your route home change to pet supply shops and dog training videos. When you arrive home you check your work emails but find you’ve been spammed by the local vet shops desperate to get you to inoculate with them. You turn on the TV and between CSI there are more pet food ads. Wherever you turn for the next 2 weeks there is another puppy related piece of marketing.

All this may seem a bit extreme, but technologically it’s not too far away. Of course if you’ve just bought a puppy this would just be frustrating. Imagine if you’d just purchased some sexy lingerie for the wife…

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