You Are Being Watched

Have you ever wondered why Facebook is showing you the latest Adidas sports shoes when you were just recently on their website? Or why a random website you’re looking at is also showing an ad at the top of the page of an Adidas promotion which ends on Friday? This my friend, is what they call targeted advertising; a way of placing ads based on the demographics of consumers, their previous buying history, or behaviour (Hearst Newspapers, 2015). Let me explain the types of targeted advertising.

Firstly we have social networking ads which utilise social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as a way of advertising based on who’s liking what, and your friends’ activities online. Take for example Facebook. Recently, I’ve been searching for flights to LA for my trip to the US, which brings me to how surprised (but then not surprised) I was to find this on my news feed:

facebook adWhen I went on to click ‘Why am I seeing this ad?’ I saw the image below which explains I was seeing an ad of because they wanted “…to reach people of Facebook through Criteo an advertising company that uses Facebook’s ad exchange.” Criteo is an international business which has digital performance advertising as its core focus. So this demonstrates companies’ use of external marketing businesses to tailor their advertising to targeted consumers who use Facebook.

facebook infoThe second type of advertising is search engine ads which display advertisements at the top and right hand side of search engines (e.g. Google) based on your searches for example:

search engine adsAs we can see, based on my search of one of Babolat’s racquets, Google has displayed 3 ads at the top of the page as well as on the right hand side (which we can recognise as ads with the small yellow square displaying the word ‘Ad’) as well as pictures of racquets and their prices on the right also which is a sponsored ad.

Lastly, we have behavioural ads which show up on websites you view based on your purchasing and browsing habits. As shown below, we can see that once I searched and looked at a particular Babolat tennis racquet, an advertisement for that particular product is shown when I’m reading articles on and when I’m ‘attempting’ to read an article for an assignment.

behavioural 1

behavioural 2In summary, targeted advertising has become a regular part of online advertising. Companies are now utilising demographics and data based on consumer habits in order to be able to target their advertisements on particular consumers who would be interested. Although, this doesn’t go without criticisms. A recent global study conducted by Adobe on 1250 Australian consumers found that 84% of Australians believe companies collect too much personal information about them, 87% believe there are too many technologies tracking and analysing the behaviour of consumers, and 73% believe “it’s creepy when companies target advertisements to consumers based on their behaviour”. In turn, 82% feel they have lost their privacy which brings me to my final questions to you – do you feel you’ve lost your sense of privacy because of targeted advertising used today? Have you ever been targeted yourself? I’d love to hear from you.


Smartphone…Smart Tennis Racquet?

After watching this clip, are you as intrigued as I am? It’s amazing to see the increasing use of technology into everyday objects (including tennis racquets!) every single day. Already, it has been predicted that by 2025, most tennis players will be using these smart racquets in place of regular racquets.

For those who are unaware, the concept of linking machinery, other physical assets, and equipment (including sports equipment) with networked sensors and actuators to capture data and manage performance relates to the Internet of Things. The smart racquet, created by French-based company Babolat, which is an example of the Internet of Things records data on each shot you hit, and sends this information to your smartphone via Bluetooth.  The technology, which was developed over 10 years by more than 50 technicians, scientists and researchers, features built-in hardware and sensors in the racquet handle which measures the amount of racquet head speed used, whether the shot uses slice, topspin, or flat strokes, as well as where on the string bed the player has made contact with the ball.

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The data is then transferred to the ‘Babolat Play’ app (on your smartphone or tablet) via Bluetooth where players and coaches can access and utilise the data to improve performance on the tennis court.  The app also takes on a social approach, where data and stats can be seen and viewed by other users in the Babolat Play community. The racquet, which is currently $449 at Tennis Warehouse Australia, houses 6 hours of battery life along with a memory capacity which holds 150 hours of tennis.

So now that we understand the gist of this technological breakthrough in tennis, what are the marketing implications? Who benefits, the player, the coach, Babolat? Let’s start with the player. Seeing the price may put off tennis players since its pretty much double the amount of a regular racquet, although the technology installed has the ability to change, improve, and evolve the game of a player, whether they’re a young up-and-comer or a professional competing in the ATP like Rafael Nadal himself.

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If you’re wondering, no it won’t put tennis coaches out of business. As a matter of fact, it will make lessons with players more efficient and effective, aiding the coach in giving instruction to improve how a player hits each shot. Although the data collected from the racquet may significantly improve a player’s performance on its own, a coach’s instruction is still important in how to use this information and where to make changes in a given style of play. It also demonstrates (if the player needs proof) that the coach knows what he’s talking about.

Now let’s talk about Babolat and how they benefit from this amazing product.  The French-based company actually has access to all the data collected from each user’s saved hitting sessions. Why does that not surprise me? It means that Babolat has the information contained in each person’s profile including how often they play tennis, whether it’s a practice session or actual match, what sort of strokes they hit, how fast they hit their shots, and where they hit it on the string bed of the racquet. Sure, to some people, if not most people, this won’t be a big issue which is fine, although some may think it dives a bit too deep into the issue of privacy.

An example of data collected from using the smart racquet. Extracted from

What’s really interesting though is that if players purchase Babolat’s smart racquet, it’s almost certain they’ll grow attached to the product since it stores all the data of how you play. Therefore, the consumer will most likely not feel comfortable to use another smart racquet or another regular racquet for that matter since all their data is collected from the Babolat smart racquet. David Benady confirms this, in that creating direct digital relationships between consumers, and the product (plus the brand), makes it harder for consumers to switch to other products. He then goes on to explain that products like the smart racquet allow Babolat to build profiles of user behaviour which was previously unobtainable data, including their style of play, how often tennis is played, and insights into where the customer is at in their tennis journey (whether they are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player).

I’d love to hear what you have to say about the smart racquet! Would you use it? Or are you concerned about Babolat’s access to your data? If you ask me, I think it sounds like an amazing product which would greatly improve my game, although it would be nice if users were given the option to make data private rather than accessible for others to see (including Babolat). Having said that, I would absolutely love to give it a try!