Amazon, I love you.
Amazon, I hate you.
Bottom line: please, please, please limit the number of exposures when using retargeting.
And now for the backstory.
I bought this really cool remote camera on Amazon two weeks ago. Hours of fun and yes, it turns out, those dogs do sleep all day.
Ever since - and on almost every other page I look at online - I have been haunted by this ad for a seemingly identical camera.
As a savvy shopper who has been on the Internet since 1993, I know what they think they're doing. But I am distressed by how little they are thinking about what they are doing.
Yes, I was interested in this product and products like it. Yes, I spent more than 10 milliseconds looking at this particular product. Yes, I came back to the site several times over several days to look at similar products.
I did peruse the "Frequently Bought Together" and the "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought..." items.
Yes, I get that this sort of retargeting is responsible for a statistically significant lift in sales and therefore profit and therefore stockholder value. Yes, I was a legitimate, serious shopper with a very long history of buying things from Amazon for the past 18 years.
Dear Amazon, please take note of my use of past tense in describing myself as a shopper. I am no longer a shopper. Now that I am a buyer, I am no longer "in market." And you, above all, should be aware of that fact because I bought it from you.
Dear Reader, please take note of the little icon in the lower right corner of the ad above. I did. It's the Ad Choices icon. I clicked.
Amazon then treated me to its explanation of why I was being shown that particular ad:
The browser you are using recently visited this product's page on Amazon.com:
People who looked at this product often ended up choosing the following products:
No personally identifiable information has been shared with the website you were viewing or any other third party.
I'm over it, that's fine; you and the NSA know how often I brush my teeth. That's a conversation for another time.
Your Current Advertising Preference: Personalize Ads from Amazon
Of course it is.
What are personalized ads? Personalized ads, sometimes referred to as targeted or interest-based ads, are based on information about you, such as the products you view on Amazon.com, your purchases on Amazon.com, visits to websites where we provide ads or content, or use of payment services like Checkout by Amazon on other websites.
Oops - looks like we forgot about my purchases on Amazon, didn't we??
You can set your preference for ads personalized by Amazon here, or visit our Interest-Based-Ads page to learn more.
While this may not be nearly as compelling as Acxiom's About The Data that lets you review (some of) the data it has on file about you and sell to anybody with coins jingling in their pockets, this is a step in the right direction of data transparency.
It will eventually lead to a world where the customer is in charge of her own data and companies will barter that data for discounts and memberships and other benefits.
But for now, I just want one thing: the ability to turn off ads for a specific product. Unfortunately, my choice is limited:
Do or do not. There is no try.
Please know that I still love you.
But we need to talk.
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Jim Sterne is an international consultant focused on measuring the value of the online marketing for creating and strengthening customer relationships. Sterne has written eight books on using the Internet for marketing, produces the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit and is co-founder and current chairman of the Digital Analytics Association.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT