February 2, 2020

Ad-targeting tech goes old school — with snail mail

Some companies use your web-browsing activity to send you mail IRL.

It’s no secret that companies amass and sell your personal data. But did you know that the data can be used to target you in the physical world, via snail mail?

Maybe you’ve received some of it already: curated mailers peddling pet products, meal-kit offers, or a cornucopia of coupons from vaguely hipster brands.

This is where the pile of junk (er, behaviorally targeted) mail comes from — and here’s what you can do about it.

Some brands are vying for your away-from-the-screen time

PebblePost is a “digital-to-direct mail marketing platform” that tracks visits to brand websites. Here’s how it works.

  • It uses “data science and machine learning” to identify visitors who are most likely to actually buy something.
  • It works with other companies to figure out your address. 
  • It mails an offer to your doorstep within 12 to 24 hours.

Yikes, stalker alert! A similar firm, Share Local Media, does mailings for millennial-forward brands like Casper and Lyft.

Why are they targeting you old-school style? The idea is: If the offer is one of the few things in your IRL mailbox, you might actually look at it.

Umm, is this even legal?

Yep, sure is. Here are a few ways to mitigate the onslaught:

  • Register with the Direct Marketing Association. It costs $2 and opts you out of some brands’ mailing (and email) lists for 10 years.
  • Register with RetailMeNot every 5 years and whenever you move.
  • If you’re in California, you can ask companies to delete your personal information.
  • Or you can take the most direct route. Opt out of PebblePost and Share Local Media mailings altogether.

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