GPS-enabled detergent box hits store shelves in Brazil

Given the privacy concerns about tracking of consumers that were raised when Walmart announced it would embed RFID tags in individual items you may be a bit surprised to hear that in Brazil, select boxes of Omo detergent will come with an embedded GPS tracker that the company will use to follow consumers straight to their front door.

The containers will be scattered throughout Brazil as part of a contest run by Unilever's ad agency. Once the detergent is removed from the store shelves, one of 35 teams will start tracking the customer. The teams have a device that will allow them to not only find the location, but also to find the specific apartment if the "lucky" shopper takes their detergent to a multi-unit building. Then, he company promises to surprise the shopper with a pocket video camera and a day of outdoor fun, part of Unilever's "Dirt is Good" ad campaign. I all, 50 of the GPS enabled detergent boxes are being placed on supermarket shelves in cities around the country.

While it is likely that many of the families selected will be happy enough with the prize package to forget that a company just tracked them to their house without their permission, one has to wonder how the prize teams will handle individuals who would rather not be tracked. After all, criminals need clean clothes, too, so there's a chance of one of these trackable detergent boxes landing in the home of someone who would be less than thrilled by an unexpected knock on the door.

Coca Cola ran a similar promotion in the U.S. in 2004. Called "Unexpected Summer," its that marketing effort put 100 Coke cans with GPS on store shelves and invited their finders to be tracked for three weeks in return for a chance to win a new car and $1 million. The difference is that the GPS-enabled Coke cans were not activated until the consumer had agreed to play along.