False Engagement (or 'My bank isn't really my bank...')
Have you noticed that ads follow you around on the web? You see the same airline or the same local company showing up on lots of different sites… The worst part is when it’s a website you recently visited -- they tagged you and then use the big advertising networks to follow you around like a street urchin begging for more after you gave him a tuppence.
It’s not just a technical fluke, it’s something deeper, something more sinister. It’s something I’m going to call “false engagement” even though I’m guessing some corporate marcom person has already written a book using that phrase.
False engagement happens when you hire someone else to be you. Alaska Airlines isn’t engaging with me, they paid the ad network, Doubleclick, to remind me about Alaska after I dropped a few hundred bucks on tickets.
Doubleclick uses that to make money off that relationship -- because I’m already a hot lead for Alaska, they should be able to get me to come back and spend more. Personally I don’t think this is good for Alaska (or for me). I don’t like seeing these ads after I’ve already made a commitment, and if I do click on one of those ads, is it laziness, or did the ad network actually add value to get me to come back?
But this idea of false engagement is broader than online advertising. Call centers that pretend to be the company you’re calling (but can’t actually help you), the management company for your HOA, the companies that administer the warranty on your computer… these are all things we complain about ad nauseum because they are all really annoying.
Annoying because you thought you had a relationship with a company (I’ve been banking with Wells Fargo since before the kid on the phone was born). Annoying because you like to think you chose a company because they would be reasonable, and the people posing as the company have entirely different motivations than the people you bought the product from.
Doubleclick wants you to buy stuff through the ad, but they don’t care if you like the company you’re buying from or ever buy again. Call centers have to handle call volume and lower call times, solving your problem is secondary. Your HOA… well, I’m still bitter about the way the HOA management company jerked me around so they could profit from fines…
My point is this -- we live in a big complicated world where we have real criminals trying to steal our credit cards or run a scam. This whole industry of contracting out the relationship between a good company and decent customers is just going to erode things more until you honestly can’t tell the difference between the legitimate company and scammers.
The world would be a better place if companies could just take a little time and a little effort and get real.