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Christmas Gift Guide
Culture

Detergent uses GPS to stalk customers

A Brazilian promotion for Omo detergent involves 50 boxes that have GPS inside. Customers lucky enough to buy one of these boxes will be followed home in order to be given a very technological prize.

Do you ever feel like you're being followed? Do you ever wonder whether someone (other than Google) knows your every move because they see it?

Well, a delightfully progressive marketing promotion in Brazil from Unilever's Omo detergent tries to bring some joy to that troubling sensation.

According to AdAge, some fine, free-thinking commercial minds decided to slip a GPS tracking device into 50 boxes of this extremely popular detergent. This is not an attempt to pursue shoplifters--though what an excellent idea that might be.

No, this is actually a promotion. This is a step into the ideal future, one in which you don't have to find the prize in your box of cereal or, I don't know, bullets. The prize will find you.

She's proceeding down 4th St. She's just bought diapers and cigarettes. Who's that man she's talking to? CC Cliff1066/Flickr

The GPS device within the lucky boxes is activated the minute some harassed shopper removes the box from the shelf. From that moment on, that shopper is a marked man or woman. Surveillance teams representing Omo will track the shopper's every step. To the checkout. To the car. To the restroom. To, who knows? Their illicit lover's house in Rio?

Fernando Figueiredo, president of the marketing agency responsible for this entertainment, told AdAge that his GPS-supported teams "may get to your house as soon as you do." And, in case you were worried that, being an apartment-dweller, the stalking horses might not find you, fear not. They have portable technology that allows them to locate you to within a few feet of your breath.

Now, I know many an American has been happily surprised and had their life changed by the sudden arrival of a man with a large check from the Publishers Clearing House. I trust that no one has ever been so startled at a knock on their door from one of the PCH's operatives that they've reached for a baseball bat, a rifle, or their cell phone to call 911.

In any case, the Brazilian promotion offers a far wittier prize than money. Yes, it's a pocket video camera (as well as a day of outdoor fun). I know I will not be the first to wonder whether this is a covert encouragement for the winner to continue the spirit of surveillance. But what's so bad about that? The world has begun to look like a grimy place--with a video camera and a box of detergent, perhaps we can return it to its former glory.