February 20, 2012

My Coupon Identity

There’s an article that’s been making its rounds through the news groups I follow. It’s about how Target’s advertising algorithms were able to predict a teenage girl was pregnant, before she told her family.

Target looks at shifts of patterns in shopping behaviors as clues. For example, pregnant women are often sensitive to certain scents. If I woman stops buying regular lotion in favor of fragrance free, it may be because she’s pregnant. Target uses several clues before it makes any assumptions, and offers coupons in hopes to attracting the mom-to-be to use target as her baby store. Of course there are other ways of predicting pregnancy. If a person issues query about pregnancy to search engines, or likes baby products, there’s a possibility that he or she may be anticipating a little bundle of joy.

This is interesting to me on multiple levels. My research at school includes interest modeling for advertising, and I am a big data mining geek. And, of course, there’s my interest in dynamic pricing. I’m can’t help but be curious what these advertising models think about me. I’m ‘out’ on facebook; I’ve posted several baby related statuses. I search google for pregnancy related information all the time. I’ve purchased maternity clothes at Target (that should be a much bigger clue than buying fragrance free hand lotion.) I should be rolling in pregnancy/baby ads.

So far, nada.

Actually, it’s worse than nothing. The ads on my Facebook page are for fertility clinics. GMail is a little better, at least I’ve seen a 529 Plan (college savings account) advertised. Of course in the same batch of ads I also got a bridal shower invitation advertisements, which, given that we’re approaching our second anniversary, would be an awfully late shower. In fairness to Facebook, they have relevant ads as well, just nothing baby related.

The theme appears to be focusing on the long term past too much. At one point I was planning a wedding, and trying to get pregnant. Bridal shower invitations and fertility clinics would have been more useful then. But life changes and what was once relevant does not necessarily stay relevant.

By the way, if you’re curious what google thinks you’re interested in, they have a handy utility.

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