You Are What You Want to Buy

Advertisers can make unlikely connections based on online behavior

Leveraging consumer desire in the moments before purchase has been the great promise for online advertising from the moment the medium debuted. Thanks to reams of data collected by cookies, ad exchanges, demand-side platforms, and real-time buying of digital ad inventory, targeting those moments has become ever more precise. That data is also giving us an ability to see what else consumers want to buy. With the help of firms like Blue Kai, which do this sort of targeting for advertisers, we can begin to trace mental road maps of shoppers in the wild. We’ve learned that people who buy designer jewelry online, for example, are also likely to seek out pieces of ceramic pottery or footwear from Uggs. Those in the market for a luxury SUV seem to fit the full profile of your average Jersey Shore cast member: They’ll drive an Escalade,  sporting a Nike sweat suit, and yap all the way across the Hudson, hands-free, via their Bluetooth-enabled phone. The hardest shopper’s profile to reconcile? The iPad-wielding technophile who drives an Audi R8 . . . and cures her headaches with a lavender oil wrap.