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Companies Consider Credit Card Purchase Data for Ad Targeting

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Earlier this year, MasterCard reportedly floated an idea to a group of ad executives regarding online ad targeting—the company was looking at ways a person’s credit card purchase history might be used as a basis for ad customization.

According to The Wall Street Journal, MasterCard has shelved the proposal, which it shared with at least four companies, citing regulations that dictate how financial-services companies can use customer info. Interestingly, though the credit card processing giant doesn’t retain people’s names and addresses, it described in a document produced in April “its ‘extensive experience’ linking ‘anonymized purchased attributes to consumer names and addresses’ with the help of third-party companies,” according to WSJ reporter Emily Steel. What MasterCard does retain are details including date and time, dollar value and merchant’s name and address for the 23 billion transactions it facilitates each year.

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Since April, the company’s initial idea has evolved; a spokeswoman says they’ve found “no feasible way” to link purchase history to Internet users. So, MasterCard is taking a different tack, looking at how it might sell marketers “an analysis of anonymous, aggregated data sorted into marketing ‘segments,’ such as people with a high propensity to be interested in international travel,” Steel writes.

Likewise, Visa is also tossing around a preliminary idea of providing advertisers info on aggregated consumer purchase histories, the WSJ reports, citing an ad executive who’d recently spoken with a company official. “That would let advertisers, for instance, show cat-grooming offers to people in one area, and dog-grooming ads to people somewhere else, based on the group buying behavior in the areas as a whole, the ad executive said,” according to Steel.

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For those who want to opt-out of having their own data included in such analyses, MasterCard provides a “Data Analytics Opt-Out” page at www.mastercard.us/privacy. A Visa spokeswoman tells the WSJ it provides “notice and choice for products that use their personal information.”

For more on the ways in which credit card data might be put to use by marketers, Steel’s in-depth piece is worth a read. Included is a description of a Visa patent application, published this spring. It suggests that the company sees potential in creating profiles drawn for sources including, “information from social network websites, information from credit bureaus, information from search engines, information about insurance claims, (and) information from DNA databanks.”

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Image: Mr. Sandman, via Flickr.com

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