Marketers tap online quizzes

16 September 2014

NEW YORK: Marketers are able to glean valuable information about consumers from the plethora of quizzes that social media and internet users complete and forward to their friends.

Specialist companies develop psychometric-type questionnaires that promise to tell the user at the end which US president they most resemble, or what actor would play them in the movie of their life, or how they would die in Game of Thrones. The data gathered can then be repackaged for advertisers.

"We collect information about demographics, intent, interests, and personality," Jacob Wright, head of strategy at online ad company VisualDNA, told the Wall Street Journal. "These can predict what people might be interested in buying or hearing about."

That information can then be linked to data in users' cookies and sold on to advertisers, agencies and adtech companies.

"It's a tool for advertisers to understand us better masquerading as a tool for us to understand ourselves better," Aram Sinnreich, a media professor at Rutgers University, told Marketplace.

Elaborating on the theme, he explained that by completing a quiz about Game of Thrones, HBO now knew not only that he watched the series but also that his preferred drink was white wine, that his last meal was a steak, that his biggest fear was failure and that his idea of heaven was a tropical beach.

"That's the brilliance of this plan," he said. "Instead of us reluctantly agreeing to give marketers information about ourselves, we are emphatically proclaiming to marketers who we are and then demanding that our friends do the same."

Popular news site Buzzfeed runs numerous quizzes and claims not to collect answers for ad purposes, but, according to managing editorial director Summer Anne Burton, it is "looking at how to use the things that we've learned" for the benefit of companies wanting to buy into quizzes.

"So they can have their own shareable pieces of content that go viral and that are really associated with their brand," she said.

Econsultancy noted that quizzes can drive huge amounts of traffic, generate leads and increase sales. "Personal connection is a big part of the reason why quizzes are so popular, but it takes a special set of tools to make the connection real," it advised.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal, Econsultancy, Marketplace; additional content by Warc staff