IT'S an offer you can't resist: fly to Honolulu for $200 round trip.
But what you might not know is that the offer was designed especially for you.
Alaska Airlines is introducing a system on the Internet to create unique advertisements for people as they surf the Web. The company is combining data from several sources to paint a picture of the consumer sitting on the other side of the screen, clicking past the airline's ads. Then, as each Web page loads, an ad is swiftly assembled.
"What's the right one to show you? The permutations are just enormous," said Marston Gould, director of customer relationship management and online marketing for Alaska Airlines.
Mr. Gould, a former engineer at NASA, has worked at the airline for five years but only recently started to think that online technology had developed to a point where the airline's ads could take on the level of specificity of direct mail or telemarketing. The difference on the Internet, however, is that companies usually do not know the names of the people seeing their ads; instead, consumers are identified by their computers, using a small piece of code known as a cookie.