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)…
Hello! We are thrilled and really stoked you are excited rather than disgusted by the concept of super targeted ads. We are *not* stalking you, rather we’re use remarketing to target ads to folks who’ve visited timbuk2.com. If you find it annoying — huge apologies if you do — then you can opt out of all remarketing ads, including Timbuk2’s, in your browser settings. Thanks for being a fan and cheers to a future where we only see content that’s relevant and interesting to US.