Latest Healthcare Marketing Insights

Back To Blog Home

Can You Hide Your Pregnancy From the Net?

April 29, 2014

advertising statistics_healthcare marketing

I don’t know if anyone remembers the movie The Net with Sandra Bullock. It was a horrible movie, yet set during a time when the Internet was new and had scary implications. Every single thing that you did both online and offline was monitored, tracked, cataloged and used against you. Today, in 2014, things aren’t so far off. That’s why this story intrigues me – the story of a pregnant Princeton sociology professor who tried to beat the Internet.

Parents-to-be are incredibly valuable customers, guaranteed to drop lots of money for 18 years or more, so companies go to great lengths to identify them and to snag them as customers. After reading a story about Target predicting a teen girl was pregnant before her father knew based on seemingly random purchases, Vertesi decided she see if it was possible to keep her own pregnancy secret from companies and online data brokers. –

Every aspect of your life is collected as Big Data, and held for marketing agencies and advertising firms to use as they wish. In health care marketing, especially marketing to pregnant women, this data is a goldmine.

"All direct marketers are continually trying to identify and reach out to prospects that resemble their best customers, potential clients who possess the same customer DNA. They realize that this is no easy task," I read on the site. "Customer DNA is built from multiple purchase transactions, demographic and lifestyle data, credit information and self-reported buying preferences . . . collective characteristics that compel buying activity."

And so, in this pregnant Princeton professor’s strategy to avoid everything and anything that would pin her as pregnant, she paid in cash for all baby purchases, forbid any of her social media connections to mention the pregnancy, even created false accounts and integrated IP addresses masking systems that allowed her to chat on BabyCenter without being recognized.

Through all of this, she was successful at keeping her pregnancy hidden from marketers and advertisers. Yet, she set off alarms in her miscreant behavior when RiteAid was required to report excessive transactions to authorities. Hiding her pregnancy from marketers essentially turned her actions into potential criminal actions.

Vertesi doesn’t recommend others try to do what she did. “It’s incredibly inconvenient. It isn’t sustainable and I don’t recommend that other people try fleeing Facebook and doing everything with Tor.  I just wanted to show how we take for granted the mechanisms of the Internet economy, including constant tracking and monetizing of our data. My project wasn’t about not consuming; I just wanted to resist tracking in the act of consumption, and that was difficult to do.

As health care marketing professionals, we are the ones who take this Big Data and use it in advertising campaigns for our clients, and the data is everywhere, from the prenatals consumers by at Target to the Private Messaging between a mother and father-to-be on Facebook.

If you’re looking to tap into this enormous market, contact us here at Quaintise.