If You Must Shop…

…turn off your phone.

Helpful story in The New York Times today about the progress of corporate capitalist behavioral tracking. Lowlights:

Nordstrom’s experiment is part of a movement by retailers to gather data about in-store shoppers’ behavior and moods, using video surveillance and signals from their cellphones and apps to learn information as varied as their sex, how many minutes they spend in the candy aisle and how long they look at merchandise before buying it.

RetailNext, based in San Jose, Calif., adds data from shoppers’ smartphones to deduce even more specific patterns. If a shopper’s phone is set to look for Wi-Fi networks, a store that offers Wi-Fi can pinpoint where the shopper is in the store, within a 10-foot radius, even if the shopper does not connect to the network, said Tim Callan, RetailNext’s chief marketing officer.

The store can also recognize returning shoppers, because mobile devices send unique identification codes when they search for networks. That means stores can now tell how repeat customers behave and the average time between visits.

RetailNext also uses data to map customers’ paths; perhaps the shopper is 70 percent likely to go right immediately, or 14 percent likely to linger at a display.

Cameras have become so sophisticated, with sharper lenses and data-processing, that companies can analyze what shoppers are looking at, and even what their mood is.

For example, Realeyes, based in London, which analyzes facial cues for responses to online ads, monitors shoppers’ so-called happiness levels in stores and their reactions at the register. Synqera, a start-up in St. Petersburg, Russia, is selling software for checkout devices or computers that tailors marketing messages to a customer’s gender, age and mood, measured by facial recognition.

Of course, this being the NYT, they have to conclude the report by dismissing its meaning. Hence, they end by quoting an über-odious mommy-marketer:

“I would just love it if a coupon pops up on my phone,” said Linda Vertlieb, 30, a blogger in Philadelphia, who said that she was not aware of the tracking methods, but that the idea did not bother her. Stores are “trying to sell, so that makes sense,” she said.

A Remarkable Letter

omerta Microsoft, undoubtedly trying to exploit overwhelmingly clear public preferences to boost its market share, is apparently planning to release the next version of its web browser with “do not track” as the default setting.

In response, the Association of National Advertisers has sent Microsoft an open letter of omerta protest. It is well worth your study, as it speaks volumes about the true nature of the relationship between corporate marketers and so-called “consumers.”

Notice, first of all, that the ANA and the Fortune 500 signatories accuse Microsoft of “Making the Wrong Choice For Consumers.” Go back to the right choice for consumers, is the message. Making choices for consumers is (of course) just fine, so long as they are the correct ones. And by correct, we mean the choices that the signatories know are best for “consumer interests” and “society as a whole.” Never mind that, even with zero political leadership on the topic, 86 percent of “consumers” expressly disagree with what the corporate overseers dictate.

Also contemplate the spectacle of these overclass warriors daring to speak of the concealment of choices about how the nation’s media run! Why is it that virtually all mass media operations in the United States are dependent on corporate advertising sponsors for their budgets? Is it due to robust public debate and preference? Or is that outcome also a “choice” that has not been, and cannot be, left to the “consumers”? The sponsors of ALEC’s efforts to kill public internet service want us to pretend it’s the former, rather than the latter. Cats everywhere are laughing up their lunch…

Finally, dig the pure Don Corleone closing to this rather amazing letter:

ANA’s Board is prepared to engage in direct conversation with Microsoft. Representing thousands of brand owners that are responsibly pursuing productive pathways to consumer engagement, we believe in a far different course of action. We respectfully suggest an immediate dialogue with key Microsoft executives prior to the anticipated release of Internet Explorer 10. We look forward to your response to our invitation.

Paired with the fact that this thing was broadly released to the marketing trade media, the only conclusion you can draw is that this precedent is a dire threat to the system, so the threat to Microsoft must be proportional to the danger of its planned policy.

Meanwhile, from the citizen’s —not “consumer’s” — perspective, it’s immensely sad how such a fragile, inch-deep power structure remains so thoroughly safe from public ire. As we work and wait for some adequate penetration of its prevailing national hologram, we can at least keep ourselves up-to-date on its true nature. This letter is a keeper in that regard.

Tis the Season 2011

vampire_santa This stuff pretty much speaks for itself. In a piece titled “What Brand Marketers Want From Facebook: A Holiday Wish List,” Laura O’Shaughnessey, CEO of SocialCode, a social agency that works with Fortune 100 brands and top agencies, has posted a true gem of humanity over on Advertising Age. Here you go:

Facebook is notorious for constantly evolving its platform, both for users and advertisers.

It is about that time of year and the signs are all around: stores are filled with festive decorations in hopes of enticing early shoppers, every commercial announces the perfect gift for him or her, and the Starbucks red cups have finally made their annual appearance. Yes, it is time to pull together our holiday wish lists. But it’s is not just you and me making lists; top brand and agency marketers are dreaming of what Facebook might give them this holiday season.

Among dear Laura’s wishes:

Third-party tracking within social ads.

Agency and brand marketers are also accustomed to including their own tracking urls within display advertising. While this is possible within certain Facebook marketplace ads, whenever a brand wants to use an ad with ‘social context’ (e.g. embedded like/share/read/listen button or sponsored story ad), they forego the ability to include third party tracking.

Obviously there are great benefits to running the ads with social context. They tend to be a highly efficient way of garnering ‘likes’ or desired actions since the user can engage directly within the ad unit. These ad units are also more relevant to users since they incorporate behaviors of users’ friends and provide a positive word of mouth experience.

On the flip side, the inability to include third party tracking makes it more difficult for brands to track downstream actions of these users. Perhaps Facebook will consider allowing a hybrid that serves the dual purpose of keeping users within the Facebook platform, but allowing brands to track their other activities on the brand page.

As heart-rending as Tiny Tim, isn’t it? Who among us hasn’t shed tears over corporate capitalists’ still-limited ability to track people’s downstream actions?

Not to worry, though, friends. Facebook, Ms. O’Shaughnessey reminds us, is certainly no Scrooge to its own true constituency:

Facebook is the world’s most pervasive social network and has a constantly improving advertising platform. Although the metrics and analytics are not totally comprehensive, and not an exact replica of display advertising, the power of social ads, the incredible targeting and the reach of the platform means that marketing on Facebook should be a crucial part of every brand manager’s marketing mix. As Facebook continues to innovate, marketers will certainly get some of the capabilities they long for and will continue to get new functionality that ties into the social graph [sic + wtf? + predictable explanation] and enables the most powerful advertising online.