Marketing’s Weekly Dose of the Truth

Ken Magill

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Is This How Bad Online Marketing Data Really Is?

By Ken Magill
With all the hype surrounding so-called big data, you’d think marketing data would allow us to pinpoint when certain consumers are reading their iPhones on the crapper.
But apparently, the idea of super accurate data couldn’t be further from the truth.
Data service provider BlueKai has a registry where consumers can check to see marketing profiles associated with their computers.
“The BlueKai Registry brings transparency to consumers by allowing them to see what preferences are being logged by other third party data creators on their computer,” says explanatory copy on the registry.” Data in the registry – should not be thought of as 'BlueKai Data' rather it is 'BlueKai' being transparent about what data companies think about your computer.”
So I decided to see what the data compilers, or “brokers” in Washington-speak, had to say about my computer’s marketing profile.
According to BluKai, Alliant has me as a rock concert attendee. The last time I attended a rock concert, not only was smoking tobacco permitted, smoking pot was expected.
Among my hobbies and interests are green living. Well, my cigars are all natural and my beer is homemade.
Another interest is supposedly NASCAR. Yep, I love watching really fast cars make hundreds of left turns. 
At the top of my personal-interests list cell phones. You mean that thing that’s charged twice a year at most, and even then it’s when the wife forces me to? I friggin’ hate cell phones. And, yes, I realize I am probably months, if not days away from yelling: “Get off my lawn!”
Alliant also apparently has me as a donor to PBS/NPR. Nope. I think both of those brands are strong enough to thrive in the subsidy- and donation-free advertising market. Elmo sure as shit doesn’t need my money.
I am also apparently a frequent flyer. Have these people seen me on a plane? When I must fly, I hold the aircraft aloft by gripping the armrests.
Alliant also apparently has me as “Queen of the Wallet.” I’ve been meaning to have a talk with the wife.
And then there’s “uses toothbrushes (manual)” and “uses toothbrushes (automatic)” and the stunningly insightful “toothpaste.”
The various data providers also have me as a probable owner of an imported mid-range car, an imported luxury car, a domestic SUV, a domestic luxury SUV, a standard imported SUV, an “upper” imported SUV, a luxury SUV, a domestic pickup, an imported pickup, a standard minivan, an upper minivan, a full-size van, a hybrid car, a hybrid truck, an economy car, a small car and a Pontiac Vibe.
A friggin’ Vibe?
Two of the auto data points are correct—correct as in, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
As Eric Wittlake noted over on, the data BlueKai has aggregated looks as if various folks threw a bunch of information at the wall to see what might stick.
Curiously, there is no mention of alcohol or tobacco consumption in my profile—the two most profitable data points a merchant could know about me.
A lot of the data points are correct, but so much is wrong that the correct data points, as the old saying goes, seem to be more a result of luck than good management.
It’s not consumers who need to be concerned about the possible effects of bad data. It’s marketers who buy the data who should be concerned.

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