Shouldn’t Big Data be Making Things Less Dumb by Now?

By DANIEL ANTION posted 11-18-2013 17:09


Maybe it’s me. Maybe my expectations are higher than they should be. Don’t tell Thornton May, but I am generally unimpressed with the impact of Big Data on advertising. I’m trying to not let this post turn into a sports-inspired rant, but put yourself in my shoes for a few minutes.

I was born and raised in Pittsburgh. I’ve said that many times in Social Media, on Flickr and on my blogs. I’ve been to Pittsburgh since installing Foursquare. I’ve checked into close to or perhaps over 100 places in Pittsburgh, including Heinz Field. I’ve checked into a local bar on a Thursday night and mentioned that I was “watching Steelers on NFL Net.” I attended the Steelers vs. Patriots game at Gillette Stadium but I created and checked into “Steeler Nation at Gillette.” Despite all of that, a few minutes ago Foursquare presented me an ad that began with “Attention Patriots Fans” – What the…

Now you might be thinking “oh, he’s being too hard on poor Foursquare, it’s reacting to his location, after all, he’s in Connecticut” but you would be being way to kind. The thing about Connecticut is that we don’t have an NFL football team – we have three. I could easily be a Giants fan, a Patriots fan or even a Jets fan. In fact, if you had to choose from those three based on my social media traffic, you would choose Jets. Yeah, I know, but hear me out. I went to undergraduate school at WVU, a.k.a. the school where Gino Smith played, Gino, the current QB for the Jets. Connect the dots Foursquare!

Big Data is supposed to let companies connect those dots at the speed of light and make intelligent decisions about what ads to present to consumers. Foursquare routinely tells me about specials at Buffalo Wild Wings when I check into Tunxis Grill, a competing establishment 2 miles up the road.

I’m sure it doesn’t matter. Foursquare makes money every time someone touches the ad for Buffalo Wilds Wings regardless of the fact that they are sitting in a competing restaurant. Maybe they are just hoping that my fat fingers will hit that ad instead of the far smaller ‘X’ which is colored to blend in with the background. Maybe they are just spamming their users with the hope of making a few cents but it’s still dumb. It’s dumb because it makes Foursquare look dumb. I’m using Foursquare as an example, but Facebook is every bit as dumb, maybe dumber.

Facebook knows what degrees I have, what schools I went to, where I work and what I do, but they are showing me an ad for a Master’s program in Education right now. They know that I ‘Like’ the Steelers, I ‘Like’ the Pirates, I ‘Like’ Visit Pittsburgh, I ‘Like’ OneBurgh, I don’t ‘Like’ the Patriots but they are showing me an ad for Shop right now – with the message “Find your favorite New England Patriots Gear Today”! Seriously, this is dumb!

The really dumb thing is that these guys don’t even have to use Big Data to not be this dumb, they only have to use the comparatively little data that they actually have. Using Big Data, if I understand it, would be if someone collected data about me and every other user from Facebook and from Twitter and from Foursquare and then when some guy from Pittsburgh lands at the airport (BDL) their app would say “The Steelers are playing tonight and there’s a Steeler fan sitting at Tunxis Grill. Do you want directions?” That might seem creepy, but at least it wouldn’t be dumb. If I was that guy and I saw that ad, I might say “wow, these guys are good, I might want to spend some of our advertising money here.” As it is, I think “spending money on Facebook  or Foursqaure is no better than any other spam-blast solution.”

Maybe it’s not Foursquare and Facebook that are being dumb. Maybe it’s the people who are advertising on those sites. Maybe they aren’t paying enough, maybe they took the “just plaster my ad at random” option, but it still makes Foursquare and Facebook look dumb. If you willingly do something that makes you look dumb…

I just read that IBM is going to be licensing access to the Watson APIs – maybe he can help these companies be less dumb.

#facebook #SoLoMo #location #IBM #advertising #Foursquare #BigData