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A bottle of Old Spice cologne.

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At 9:15 pm on Thursday, I posted the following tweet:

“Old Spice, your new commercials are sheer genius, but your products still smell like a dive bar full of long-haul truckers.”

At 9:17 pm, I received an email notification that Old Spice was following my tweets.

At 9:19 pm, Old Spice replied to me:

“@mattchandl3r Suggest you try our new line of lighter, fresher, non-trucker scents. Fiji is my favorite. http://tinyurl.com/ya4qr69”

Okay, the response was funny, just like their commercials (if you haven’t seen them, go now and watch … I’ll wait). And it seems like it may have even been made by a real person, as it referenced my original tweet. But I’m not sure how I feel about brands and companies auto-following me on Twitter when I happen to reference them.

I work in the internet marketing industry, and I use all the same tools (Radian6, HootSuite, Cotweet, Omniture, Quantcast, etc.) that they do. Old Spice has clearly hired someone who knows what they’re doing (maybe we do it better … call us, Old Spice!). I have gone around and around on a number of occasions debating using this same tactic, and I keep coming back to the decision that I find it creepy and obtrusive.

Bear in mind that if called upon our company would probably do something very similar. Call me a hypocrite, say I can dish it out but I can’t take it, whatever. You’re probably right.

Imagine if you were on the phone with your mother, and she asked what you did over the weekend. You respond by telling her you met up with some friends at BW3 to watch the big game and have some wings and beers. Suddenly, the phone clicks over to an automated message saying “Have you tried our new Spicy Chipotle Ranch Donut Holes from the B-Dubs breakfast bar? They’re great!”

Gaah! Who’s that listening in to our conversation? Oh, it’s Buffalo Wild Wings. They were just listening for their name so they could throw in a quick marketing message.

The difference, of course, is that we expect (and have a right to) privacy in our phone conversations, whereas on the internet there is no such expectation. Those Flickr photos of your four-month-old kid drooling on your sleeping dog are cute, but rest assured someone’s looking for them so they can try to sell you Gerber and Purina.

Or maybe it’s just disconcerting that some of the power of the internet is now being fully realized. Back in the basement computer labs when we got our first taste of Mosaic, we knew the game was officially on. We knew that if you put it out there, it was really out there for anybody to read, forever and forever. The same holds true today, except it happens in real time with people you don’t know and it just feels weird.

So stick to the man on the horse, Old Spice. Keep up the great work with your ad agency, because I and everyone I know loves your new commercials.

But I’m blocking you from seeing my Tweets.

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