Sometimes I think that every advancement in technology is made simply to facilitate advertising.  I’m pretty sure that the marketing community sees it that way.  I don’t know about you but I saw the first ads on my Snapchat stream last week and I read a piece ruminating about programmatic ads on watches. To place an ad these days you want data from the device or screen user and more often than not the user had no clue what data is being captured to feed the marketing beast.

I’ll say upfront that I’ve worked in and around marketing for almost 40 years so I get the attention/value equation.  What digital has done is to change that equation, since we’re really not simply measuring the users’ attention but we’re learning a lot more about the users themselves, way more than we ever knew from media measured by panels.  The more you know about what marketers know, the creepier it gets.

Consumers are waking up.  The Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania released a study called “The Tradeoff Fallacy –  How Marketers Are Misrepresenting American Consumers And Opening Them Up to Exploitation.”  From the introduction:

New Annenberg survey results indicate that marketers are misrepresenting a large majority of Americans by claiming that Americans give out information about themselves as a tradeoff for benefits they receive. To the contrary, the survey reveals most Americans do not believe that ‘data for discounts’ is a square deal. The findings also suggest, in contrast to other academics’ claims, that Americans’ willingness to provide personal information to marketers cannot be explained by the public’s poor knowledge of the ins and outs of digital commerce. In fact, people who know more about ways marketers can use their personal information are more likely rather than less likely to accept discounts in exchange for data when presented with a real-life scenario.

The study goes on to detail how an overwhelming percentage of consumers do NOT believe that stalking them and grabbing personal information is a fair trade for the value they receive.  The reason they don’t stop using the services doing so is not because they approve of and appreciate the trade but because they don’t see an alternative.

Maybe it’s time we asked ourselves if identifying the individual consumer and stalking them everywhere (even on their wrist!) is the best way to drive sales or build a relationship with them.  Perhaps we need to do a better job of creating strong brand messages and allowing the consumer to come to us instead of us popping up everywhere?

84 percent strongly or somewhat agreed that they wanted to have control over what marketers could learn about them. 65 percent agreed that they had come to accept that they had little control over it.  We wonder why ad blocking is becoming the norm?  When companies ask for information they don’t need to deliver their product or service, every other company’s ability to get the data they do need is compromised.  For example, the Uber app is grabbing location data even when the app isn’t being used to call for a car.  Stalking at its worst.

Read the study and have a think about it.  While we do need to know about our consumer and engage in conversation with them, none of us want to be stalkers.  Any thoughts on how we can strike that balance?

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Filed under Consulting, digital media

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