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Monday 7 May 2007

Welcome to Gootopia

Shelly Palmer provides another take on Google History on HuffPost. Welcome to Gootopia:

Alethea Hokum sat quietly, barely breathing. Her glazed eyes showed a faint reflection of the video monitor that had lulled her into semi-consciousness. Startled and just a bit confused, she reached down to silence her vibrating PDA. But something caught her eye. It was a text message offering her an additional 15 percent off if she would like her carpets cleaned this week.

Of course the text message was just a few seconds out of sync with the sponsorship message she had just seen, but Alethea knew the offer was especially for her. It was an offer she couldn't refuse.

She hit the pause button on her television, answered the text message with a simple "y" and pressed send. Two clicks on her remote to get back to the part of the show she missed and less than a minute later, Alethea Hokum returned to her blissful world of personalized, highly relevant media.

Across town, Verity Bunker, a stay-at-home mother of two, was taking a much-needed retail therapy break. As she approached a digital sign at the mall, the message changed to show a woman, with a physique quite similar to her own, in a remarkably familiar setting. Verity could not put her finger on it, but she knew that she had to visit this particular store on this particular trip -- what was it about that sign?

This sounds exactly like the marketing nirvana which execs have rhapsodised about for almost the last decade.

I have a friend who runs a company and I've heard this many a time in the past, usually involving mobile phones 'going off' whilst walking past shops.

But Palmer wants to burst that bubble.

Statisticians will tell you that, with the appropriate sample size and mathematical tools, it is relatively easy to predict what a population will do. However, it is absolutely impossible to predict what any individual will do.

Later that day, Alethea and Verity meet-up with two of their friends at the Tennis Club. Verity says, "... you know, I've been thinking about Mexican food all day. Anyone want to join me?" Three of the four women agree but Alethea says, "That sounds fine, but you know what? The best Chinese restaurant in town is just a block away from here. Why don't we go there?"

So much for all of the day's hyper-targeted Mexican food marketing dollars, or -- was it the fact that the Chinese food trade federation outspent them and got Alethea, the thought leader, to influence the group. Wow! Gootopia is going to be a strange place to live.

This is true. But 'Gootopia' is already a pretty misfiring place. I've been using Gmail for ages and get contextualised ads. Some of the mis-relationships are hysterical.

Sure, this will get better but Palmer's basic point is right. The reality of completely individualised marketing is a long ways off.
NB: Gootopia is actually some sort of 'safe space' for kids online, inhabited by Googles ...

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