Big Brother Marketing: A Nightmare In One Act

I Can't Believe You Don't Want To Buy This Printer!

A scene in the not too distant future…

Location: Staples Advanced Marketing Division office.  Two men are working before a large computer screen.

Young Marketing Intern: “OK, it’s 3 in the afternoon and target market “Peg” is napping.”  (screen before him shows middle aged woman, face down on the quarterly tax return documents spread all over her desk.  She is drooling slightly.)

Order Fulfillment Supervisor:  “Access last 3 months buying history.”

Intern:  “Program is working, working… target has purchased lots of paper, ink…”

Supervisor:  “Integrate online viewing history.”

Intern: “Integrating data…looks like just yesterday her mouse hovered for 4.8 seconds over the HP LaserJet P2035n printer.  Wait a minute, wait a minute… (voice rises excitedly) AND the HP LaserJet P2055dn for 3.7 minutes.  Repeat, 3.7 minutes!  Looks like we’ve got a live one here, boss!”

Supervisor: (hunkers down in executive chair like Captain Kirk getting set to outrun the Klingons)  “OK, this is where it gets tricky.  Access target’s online movie viewing and music selections for the last 2 months.” (screen splits to show sleeping woman, along with columns of data scrolling down.) “Hmmm.  Listens to classic America, Bread, Three Dog Night, … aha!  John Denver!  Cue the Nature Lover Dream, lowest sound and sensory emanation from her desktop.  A little louder, a little louder…careful, for pete’s sake, do you want to wake her up?”

The atmosphere is tense in the office as the intern types rapidly.  The screen changes, comes into focus.  Picture shows the target’s dream.  She is reclining in a field of clover on a bright, summer day.   Slowly, like the Cheshire Cat, the HP LaserJet P2055dn printer appears next to her under the tree.

Several moments pass.  The woman on screen shows no interest in the printer.  “Peg” continues to weave daisy chains and hum “Rocky Mountain High”, slightly off key.  The Supervisor frowns.

Supervisor:  “She’s not going for it.  Access Personal Online Viewing After-Hours-When-Boss-is-Gone history.”

Intern: (looks uneasy, hesitates.)  “Do you think we should?  I mean, isn’t that kind of illegal?”

Supervisor: (grips arms of chair, shouts) “Just do it, man!  I’m not letting this one slip away.”

(Hazy split screen comes into focus, various images flash quickly by.)

Supervisor: (face breaks into an evil smile)  “Bingo!  We’ve got her now.”

On screen, a man riding a black stallion comes through the field toward the reclining woman.   They reach the fence and the horse rears up, then settles down as the man vaults lightly from its back.  He is a large man with a flowing mane of hair, skintight black pants and high boots, and a poet/pirate shirt unbuttoned to the navel. 

It is Fabio of romance novel and I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Butter fame. 

Fabio approaches the reclining woman, lifts her effortlessly in his mammoth arms and sets her tenderly atop the HP LaserJet P2055dn printer. 

Fabio begins nibbling her neck and murmurs in a low, seductive growl “…quiet function and ink-saving capabilities mean that you’ll get 35ppm at 1200 x 1200 dpi, with a duty cycle of up to 50,000 pages…” 

As the screen shot fades, the woman’s head falls back on his strong shoulder.  She moans, softly.

I get emails from Staples with special coupons and deals on office supplies.  In recent months, they have sent emails requesting my feedback on many of the specific products I have purchased, whether online or in the local store.  That kind of tracking is worrisome.  Last week I got an email extolling the virtues of two printers.  Why these two?  I had specifically looked at their features on the Staples’ website the day before.

Be afraid.  Be very afraid.

About pegoleg

R-A-M-B-L-I-N-G-S, Ram...Blin!
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45 Responses to Big Brother Marketing: A Nightmare In One Act

  1. bigsheepcommunications says:

    It’s not just Staples – it’s far more sinister. If I’ve shopped for anything online, like shoes from zappos, then for days after, zappos ads featuring the shoes I looked at pop up wherever I roam online. MAKE IT STOPPPP!!!!!!!!!!!


  2. We’re definitely being watched. I went online browsing at Coldwater Creek for a birthday gift for my mother and now I’m getting emails. I don’t remember giving them my email address. I believe Neil Postman was right; we will amuse ourselves to death. Fortunately Fabio will not be involved in my personal amusements. You can have him, Peg.


  3. Margie says:

    I have an adblocker add-on on my web browser. There is nothing I enjoy more than pressing the ‘Block this’ button… okay, there are lots of things I enjoy more, but the quest to stay off their radar is one that I enjoy.


  4. Great post! I really do think computers can tap into our fantasies and send us emails on what we truly desire. The thing I don’t get is why they think I want all those winkie enlargers and erection sustainability pills. I mean, I’m a woman and I don’t want to be with a freakish large man for hours on end. I don’t whose fantasy that is, but somebody’s wire got crossed with mine! ;).


  5. joehoover says:

    I go to a football (the English version) forum and the pop ups are very odd, they said it taps into what you search for and tries to gear things towards you. I’ve been looking up Thailand a lot for my upcoming holiday but this seems to have translated to pop ups for Thai brides and dating sites.


    • pegoleg says:

      I have a feeling that a large number of people going to Thailand for vaca are looking for good times with very young women (or men), sadly. I can’t see what that has to do with football (rugby?).


  6. Well written post, as usual, Peg. Hysterical and scary at the same time. Hyscary. I am very afraid. This is one big reason why I don’t post much on Facebook anymore. I could put up an innocent status like, “Happy Halloween! I ate too much chocolate!” and the next second there will be adds popping up on the side for Godiva and Weight Watchers and Zombies. Creeps me out.


  7. Tar-Buns says:

    Another reason why I don’t do Facebook. Very much dislike the pop-up ads and unsolicited email from vendors. Just ordered some DVDs from PBS and have already gotten 3 emails about buying more. Jeesh! Let me be!


    • pegoleg says:

      You’re preachin’ to the choir, sister! (see, that’s funny because I’m pretending to be a southern church-goer who calls everyone sister, yet you really ARE my sister.)


  8. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    I remember when I used to complain about all the solicitations I’d get over the phone at home. Oddly, those have all but disappeared – only to be REPLACED by the internet gnomes and trolls and stalkers who deign to think they know me. Hah! I’m a chameleon. One day I love that shoe shopping site – the next day – Not so much.


  9. notquiteold says:

    What makes me afraid. I’ll look at something… say a sweater on Later in the evening I will go to, and the corner ad is for the sweater I looked at. IT’S FOLLOWING ME!


  10. Sandy Sue says:

    I got a call last night by the regular, non-English-Speaking, telemarketers. I stayed on the line because I wanted to tell them to take me off their list. But when I told the guy, he got indignant and said, “Why? You tell me why not to call!” I was so angry, my mother’s voice came out of my mouth. “Because I said so!”


  11. winsomebella says:

    So funny and yet so really scary too. He of I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-butter fame is scary too.


  12. pattisj says:

    I’ve started getting calls on my cell, the ones that got blocked with the original “do not call” list for the landline. They’re everywhere!They’re everywhere!


  13. Tori Nelson says:

    I get such bizarre SPAM messages sent to my inbox that I actually get concerned I’ve sleep-typed and looked at some naughty sites. I check my computer’s history each morning, give a sigh of relief, and ask Cialis to stop pestering me 🙂


  14. Lenore Diane says:

    I laugh out loud when the ‘coincidences’ pop up and I forgotten a previous purchase or search. Shoes for instance, I look – not buy – then days later, I see an ad for the shoes appear on the side of a random website … “Oh yeah! I was going to buy those. Wait. How’d they know that?!”

    Very funny take on a very creepy fact o’this modern and technical life.


  15. Amy says:

    I so cracked up at this: “Fabio begins nibbling her neck and murmurs in a low, seductive growl “…quiet function and ink-saving capabilities mean that you’ll get 35ppm at 1200 x 1200 dpi, with a duty cycle of up to 50,000 pages…”
    Awesomely funny! But, in a way, kinda scary because it seems kinda plausible.


    • pegoleg says:

      We’re just a hop, skip and a jump away from “them” being able to put product placements in our dreams.

      Wait, that sounds a tad paranoid, doesn’t it? Are you looking at me funny? Are you???


  16. That happens to me all the time, and I am seriously creeped out as well. Except for the Fabio stuff. I get a man spoon feeding me coffee Haagen Dazs. He might be grusomely ugly or be one of the presidential hopefuls. He might even be a she. I have no idea. But I do moan, softly.


  17. I ordered plants online from Gurney’s this spring. They are really a great company to deal with, but their ads promising 75% off and $25.00 coupons kept popping up on my computer for months. It kind of freaked me out knowing they were following me.


  18. Barb says:

    It’s true. My jaw dropped when I saw what Facebook and Google were hiding from me.


  19. Deborah the Closet Monster says:

    I love the post (and that image! oh, that image!), but I fear its inspiration! Gah.


    • pegoleg says:

      It really is scary. If a gal can’t surf the internet for porn or shoes without feeling her every move is being noted by the Big Computer In The Sky, what is the world coming to?


  20. Big Al says:

    That email from Staples is just what you need
    Your life will be good if it’s offers you heed
    This creepy intrusion is nothing to fear
    For Staples well knows that Christmas is near.

    Your “best interests at heart” is what it’s about
    So do not delay, get the credit card out
    You’re high on their list of good buyers, you know
    Those special incentives should make your heart glow

    So shuck all the fear and the moments of doubt
    Show them your spirit and max the cards out
    And if Fabulous Fabio should come to your door
    We’ll sure understand if we see you no more.


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