I’m not generally paranoid, and I am a paper lover, but recently I have noticed something very unsettling… Neenah Paper is cyber-stalking me!
Over the past few weeks Neenah’s ad words campaign has literally been following me around the Internet. Google’s algorithm has obviously identified me as someone who has a vested interest in paper and design, specs paper for projects, writes about paper, and corresponds with paper companies. Per the math, I’m a perfect prospect. In reality, their campaign offer for free shipping on specialty papers is something I would never use or click into, and Neenah is wasting money on me. I LOVE their paper of course, but I get it through my printers!
Is Where You Are, Who You Are?
Once I noticed Neenah was following me around, I did a little experiment to see how far down the ad words rabbit hole Google would take them. I did some raunchy searches but the usual “enhancement” suspects showed up. I visited some of my regular stops for printing news and Neenah followed. I looked up specs for Twitter backgrounds and Neenah followed. I visited Brands of The World to download a logo for International Paper, and Neenah followed. Then I hit the mother lode! I randomly clicked on a linked being shared on Twitter about Nicole Kidman that led me to “Celebrities Getting Fat” and not only did Neenah follow me, their ad was smack in the center of the page.
I obviously cant speak for Neenah, but I would be willing to bet they wouldn’t associate their brand with a site providing a 24 hour celebrity fat watch. The problem is, now I can.
Big Reach, Little Control
Neenah isn’t the only one in this boat. A few days into the recent Carnival Cruise ship fiasco I noticed Royal Caribbean ads popping up online and as promoted Tweets. As someone who has first hand experience with “disasters” and advertising, I can tell you this is a HUGE blunder. In general, ALL advertising is pulled by everyone in that category based on the assumption that people will link your brand to the crisis at hand. That used to be limited to print, tv, and radio, and with the exception of magazines already out on newsstands, you could pretty much stop the rest with a few phone calls. Who do you call at Google or Twitter to make sure your ads stop popping up?
Oddly enough, Royal Caribbean ended up in the news with it’s own crisis a few weeks after Carnival’s with a virus outbreak. Not a good month for having ads out there you can’t control if you are in the cruise biz, a really bad month for the cruise industry, and even worse for all the passengers who went through either experience.
Returning To The Security Of Traditional Media Et. Al.
I’m a 21st century girl and I don’t wane nostalgic for simpler times, but Google is forcing me to take a hard look into the mechanics of online marketing. I was talking to friend who told me he sent an email to his brother congratulating him on his new home, and subsequently was inundated with information about mortgages and re-financing. He deleted his Gmail account.
Microsoft is now calling this “Getting “Scroogled” and has launched a series of commercials promoting the use of BING! as a search engine and Outlook for mail. Neither product will scan your activity for data and deliver ads. This is bad news for online advertisers, good news for the public who is starting to get more than creeped-out by Google’s method, and I think GREAT news for Print!
In marketing there is an implied social contract I believe is being disregarded online; I cannot stop Neenah from stalking me, I cannot fully opt of out Google feeding me ads or from scanning my email or tracking my online activity. That is a breach of trust, and that can also be applied to the companies who get caught in it because I do have the option to block specific advertisers.
Maybe if I didn’t know Neenah I would be curious enough to click over and see what they are all about since everywhere I go, there they are. More likely I would be afraid to – since they are already following me I could escalate it to another unknown level. The question now becomes, is that what Neenah really wants me thinking about?
There will come a point when consumers have had enough, and at least some of the ad words dollars will be redirected back to where the consumers feel safe and brands can control where and when and why they show up. After all, when was the last time you were stalked by a print ad?