I think I’m being followed.
All over the web, I am being show ads from Timbuk2, a company that makes bags designed for laptops and other electronics for people who are “on the go”. I might just assume that they are in the midst of an advertising blitz, but it didn’t start randomly. It began when I spent a little time on their website, checking out one of their products. Now I see them everywhere.
I think I know why they are doing this. I did spend some time on their website recently, carefully checking out a particular product, but I didn’t actually buy anything while I was there. I think they know I was interested, and I’m guessing that they hope that if they keep reminding me about the bag, I will finally give in. It’s a good strategy.
Unfortunately, they are wasting their money. They can follow me across the web, but they can’t follow me across computers. I already bought it, but they don’t know that.
A week and a half ago, I don’t think I was even aware of the the company. Then, I saw an article from New York Times reporter David Pogue about his new laptop bag, the Command Messenger from Timbuk2. He was excited about a recent design change to this hybrid laptop bag / messenger bag that made it a breeze to zip through airport security, and I was immediately intrigued. Not that I fly very much, but still.
This is a seriously cool bag. It has a special laptop compartment that folds out for TSA scanning without removing the laptop, and in general they have put a lot of thought into all the details of the zippers, pockets, and flaps that make it a perfect, compact, sturdy bag. They have a two minute web video showing off the bag’s features – it’s worth checking out.
I have been using a Kenneth Cole laptop bag as my daily “take stuff to work bag” for the last several years. Mostly I just carry my lunch around in it, and it’s perfect for when I need to take my laptop home, but if heavens forbid I need to carry both my lunch and my laptop, it doesn’t work so well. Also, the shoulder pad on the strap is starting to wear out, and I was vaguely aware that maybe it was time to change it out.
So, I saw this bag, and I was immediately hooked. After spending a while checking out various options, I sought out the most important second opinion of all – my wife’s. I sent her the link, and when we were home that evening, she looked at it with me. After watching the video, she shifted from a “why do you need this?” stance to “if you buy it, I’m stealing it when I fly to an overnight conference next month”. With that vote of confidence (and her color recommendations), I placed the order.
That is, I placed the order using her computer.
The next day, back at work, I started noticing that Timbuk2 ads are showing up everywhere. I went to look up “mendacious”, and there it was, staring at me:
I’m reading a blog post, and there they are:
It’s been almost two weeks, and they are continuing to popup regularly.
Now, this certainly could be a big coincidence. I haven’t done any experiments with fresh browsers to see if they will track me. Still, the timing is very suspicious to me. I’m guessing that because I spent time reviewing a product on their site but never made it to checkout, they have some sort of ad network cookie that puts in me into a “hot lead” category. Then, as I browse the web and visit sites that use the ad network, they see “ooh, this is a timbuk2 hot lead – show him the timuk2 ad.”
I suspect many people may be a little creeped out by this, but not me. I love it. Mostly, I feel bad for them, since I know they are spending money trying to get me to buy something that I already purchased. Since I didn’t use the same computer that has the ad tracking cookie, so they can’t figure that out. Brilliant marketers, limited by the technology.
Frankly, I think that targeted advertising is a wonderful thing. I hate going to websites and getting blasted with ads for mortgage refinancing or auto insurance or discounts on clothing. I have no interest in these products. On the flip side, I am a cheap skate. I hate paying for services unless I use them heavily, and even then, it is only grudgingly.
If companies can figure out what products and services I am most interested and use it to show me better targeted ads, and they can use it to make the sites I like to visit free for me to use, then I am all for it. Sign me up.
In the meantime, my bag finally arrived over the weekend, and I am loving it. I used it to take my son to a doctor’s appointment this morning, and it was easily adapted from a laptop bag to taking his books, toys, snacks, and water bottle plus my kindle to read, all while being very comfortable to wear and carry.
So I would heartily recommend you go get one… If you dare… (cue haunted house music)…