I am laughing

The bargain hotel that the Hotels.com gizmo is showing me on this page = Hotel Commonwealth in Boston, $666 per night. Really. $666.

If you are not seeing Hotels.com ads, it’s because the search retargeting is showing you whatever else you have been looking at in the past few weeks.

A moment ago, the ad gizmos (never just display ads anymore - they all have active code built into them) started making the page blink rapidly, like a strobe light. Had to refresh to make it stop.

The ads show me a lot of things I browsed (but would never buy) on the Guitar Center website. So glad to see those over and over. And there’s a second ad on the side showing me more from Hotels.com, this one San Francisco hotels. I finished my trip to SF a couple of weeks ago.

When digital media people pretend they are targeting ads to our interests, they are actually using crude algorithms that depend on your browsing history. I’d be happy to actually tell them what I care about instead of seeing ads for airlines and hotels and rental car places – often trying to sell me what I already bought or don’t need anymore.

After I bought a new guitar amplifier, I saw ads for the one I bought for the next two months. Brilliant marketing strategy. Surely I want another one.

It always cracks me up when Amazon tries to sell me something that I have already purchased. (Especially when it is something not purchased repeatedly, like cleaning supplies.)

I don’t see those ads, because I use Firefox Adblock Plus on my laptop and Purify on my iPhone.

The gold standard in recommender systems is supposedly Netflix. They claim it is responsible for a good chunk of their profits, but it is, of course. specialized to their constrained product. Most of the power in the algorithm is apparently simple nearest-neighbor search. It finds customers that rate movies similar to you and recommends movies those those nearest neighbors have purchased that you haven’t. Netflix has the advantage that few attributes need to be known to be predictive, and they have reams of data on those attributes. Effective personalized ad targeting would apparently require far more data.