Timbuk2 is tracking me across the web, trying to win my business, but it’s too late… I’m already a customer

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)

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One Response to Timbuk2 is tracking me across the web, trying to win my business, but it’s too late… I’m already a customer

  1. Timbuk2 says:

    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.

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