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Bricks-and-mortar purchases may drive online Facebook ads

Bricks-and-mortar purchases may drive online Facebook ads

Buying lots of Pampers? Expect to see Pampers ads -- and more -- on Facebook

March 2nd, 2013 by James R. Hood of ConsumerAffairs in News

So let's say you're one of those people who values privacy. You don't like being tracked around the Web. Maybe you don't like to buy things online because you think it helps marketers build a profile of you.

Well, see how you like this then. Facebook's latest bright idea is to let brands target ads to you based on what you've bought in stores, according to insiders quoted in Advertising Age.

So if this idea becomes reality and if you buy a lot of Diet Coke or order Nike running shoes frequently, you're liable to start seeing ads for Coke, Nike and related products when you're on Facebook.

How could anyone know all that about you? Well, you've heard of Big Data? Among other things, this term covers the massive amount of data that's constantly being collected and collated about individual consumers.

If you belong to a loyalty program at your local supermarket, for example, Big Data knows your shopping habits better than you do. And it's a relatively simple step to link that data up with your Facebook profile so that brands can keep a bead on you whenever you're logged in.

The process goes beyond tracking your favorite soft drink, though. Way beyond. Let's say you've started buying Pampers at your local Safeway recently.

Ah ha! A new parent, Big Data notes. This opens you up to all kinds of ads for baby care products and provides a pretty accurate timeline that tells marketers when your child hits age milestones so that ads can segue to products for toddlers instead of infants, and so on.

Slick, eh?

Of course not everyone thinks this is a good idea. Consumers generally say they don't like being profiled and don't like their web activities being logged. That alone may be enough to give pause to some brands, which  would prefer not to annoy consumers unnecessarily.

On the other hand, most marketers are pretty pragmatic and the truth is that very few consumers are going to take the trouble to find out which company is engaged in what ad-targeting practices and take their business elsewhere as a result.

There could also be some legal issues and possible run-ins with federal consumer protection agencies but for now, it's an idea that's likely to get serious attention over in the marketing department.