Increasing use of connected devices means that our activity across screens is not only being recorded, but the data is being analysed, aggregated and used to inform marketing and content push.This multi-channel data aggregation is not new. Googlemail has been reading our e-mails for years, and pushing us ads generated by keywords in our messages. We’ve had years of web ‘stalker ads’, which follow our web activity with linked display ads, and now smartphone and PC browsing data is being cross-referenced, and ads are following us around from screen to screen. The technology for the personalised ad break is already here and is already being used.
I work in mobile and digital marketing or what I now refer to as ‘Connected Marketing’. For the past few years we’ve been experimenting with dynamic and personalised marketing across real world and digital channels. The more connected we become, the more this will happen and its part of the general shift from ‘macro’ broadcast marketing and advertising to ‘micro-marketing’.
Consumer reaction to this falls into two broad camps, fear or acceptance. It tends to be the ‘digital natives’ that fall into the latter camp – this is the generation that has grown up with the internet, and doesn’t think twice about sharing their location, relationship status or inside leg measurements with the world. For them giving up personal data is a rational quid pro quo – the more they give, the more they get. By divulging media consumption and personal data they get better recommendations, a slicker experience and free content.
Those who fear the use of personal data for marketing tend to cite vague privacy concerns, but with no real evidence of any actual harm or potential for harm to them or anyone else. What they really don’t like, I believe, is the commercialisation of media.
Let me play devil’s advocate – what’s better, standard broadcast TV adverts that are the same for everyone or TV adverts that are personalised? Is more efficient and targeted advertising really bad for you?
The answer probably depends not on your views on data protection, but on your view of consumerism and whether you think the web has ever been or could be a private place.
This post was written in response to a blog post ‘The Price of Progress’ written by Michael Rosenblum on the Guardian Professional Network.