Think Twice Before You Put That Vibrator On Your Visa Card

If you believe your credit card purchases can’t be used for targeted ads towards you, think again. According to the Wall Street Journal, credit card companies are already pursuing it:

The technology is still evolving. According to ad executives briefed on some of the ideas, a holy grail would be to show, for instance, a weight-loss ad to a person who just swiped their card at a fast-food chain—then track whether that person bought the advertised products. Currently, Web ads generally are based on a person’s online behavior but not information tied to his or her identity or activities in the brick-and-mortar world.

In one particularly futuristic idea, a Visa patent application published this year describes incorporating information from DNA databanks, among other personal details, into profiles that could be used to target people online.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, but I still don’t know why stories like this don’t get more attention. Is it that consumers don’t particularly care? Is it because we all understand the trade-offs involved in the convenience of getting to use a credit card for free (that is, if you pay it off every month)?

The article does say that MasterCard doesn’t collect people’s names and addresses when processing transactions, so tying it to online profiles becomes harder. But do you really believe that? Do you like ads that are more targeted to you? Do you notice when certain banner ads “follow you around” on various websites?

Clearly, credit card companies know who to bill a transaction to. And as more mobile apps (like the one Starbucks has) enable purchases, the data will become more useful. If they can figure out a way to tie online profiles to credit card data, they will implement it and try to sell it to marketers. But one thing I’ve learned is that clients like all the data they can get, but often times they simply don’t know what to do with it or how to use it to make their ads more compelling.

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About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for TalentZoo.com. Dan published the best of his TalentZoo.com columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.