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Algorithms are sexy. Privacy Is dead.

Opinion, 29 March 2011

Don’t you just love those pithy sound bites that make for highly quotable quotes? Here’s one from Tony Effik of Publicis Modem New York: “Privacy, in its traditional form, is dead.” He and several other experts share their thoughts on personalised targeting in the current edition of Admap.

“Eventually, most media will become IP-enabled and connected to the internet, or the ‘cloud', enabling advertisers to track behaviour across devices and better target advertising based on specific audience nuances, needs and stage in the purchase process.” – Norm Johnston, Mindshare Worldwide (Addressable TV)

“The better-quality data you have about a customer, the more relevant you can make the content and the timeliness of the message, so that, over time, customers will be happier to receive messages and be timelier in their response.” – Tracey Follows, VCCP (The race for relevancy)

But many concerns about privacy continue to be raised. “Our research shows that 65% of consumers believe targeted advertising is an abuse of privacy,” Ged Egan reports. “But at the same time, 64% of consumers think advertising tailored to their individual tastes and interests is a good idea.”

Wha? How can this be reconciled?

“Consumers need to feel engaged with the marketing communications they receive,” Egan explains. “The key to delivering successful initiatives is establishing a reciprocal relationship with consumers that respects their privacy and reassures them of the benefits of receiving tailored messaging. This should form part of a holistic approach that embraces new marketing strategies, while improving traditional tried-and-tested techniques.”

As Effik continues: “New technologies are emerging that will begin to help consumers to redress the imbalances in the free media model. In the near future, we will all use intelligent agents that handle our day-to-day transactions. These agents will be smart software, configured to handle our commercial lives. They will know what we like, what we can afford, what we are running out of, and how to get it to us. They will also handle our privacy and will know what the best rate for our data is. Data will not be something consumers unwittingly give for free, but, rather, a tradeable commodity that our intelligent agents market on our behalf.”

Doesn’t this still make a lot of assumptions about who we are and what we like? Perhaps social media won’t be the end of gender after all:


For all my previous entries on the Warc blog, click here.

About the author

I currently work as Knowledge Manager at Synovate Laboratories, the R&D centre of a global market research firm. In addition to providing project design and analytical support to senior executives around the world, I am responsible for internal web management and monitoring online media buzz. As one of the first external bloggers for WARC, I discussed a range of topics (including advances in behavioural economics and digital technology) before publishing a paper on building powerful brands. A new paper, which analyses over 100 000 consumer comments to uncover the essence of a successful ad, will be published soon.