LONDON: The Admap Prize 2016 has been won by Oliver Feldwick, Head of Digital Strategy at CHI & Partners, for his essay decrying algorithm-based personalised communication and arguing in favour of serendipity and the human touch.

Entrants were asked to write an essay addressing the question: 'How Should Marketing Adapt to the Era of Personalisation?' In The Uncanny Valley of Personalisation, Feldwick accepts that machines can get it right, but says that far too often marketers end up "with nothing but a failed magic trick" that damages brands and delivers a poor consumer experience.

"The more we use data, algorithms and machine learning to act like we know people, the more we expose that we really don't," he writes – the "uncanny valley" of his title.

Add to that issues around privacy and the reduction in opportunities for brand discovery by chance along the purchase journey and it should come as little surprise that consumers are finding ways to fight back – by adblocking, unsubscribing and giving out false information.

Commenting on the essay, Admap Prize judge Guy Murphy, worldwide planning director of JWT, said: "The author accurately points out the power as well as failures of personalisation in a way that marketers can truly understand, and the need for technology to augment, not replace, human insight and oversight."

The Admap Prize, sponsored by Kantar, encourages and rewards excellence in strategic thinking in brand communications. The Gold Award and a $5,000 cheque will be presented to Feldwick at an Admap Prize celebration event at Cannes Lions on June 23rd (for which readers can register), billed 'Marketing in the Era of Personalisation' with a panel including Samsung's Marc Mathieu and Facebook's Ian Edwards.

The Silver Award went to an essay co-authored by Ramzi Yakob of TH_NK and Hamid Sirhan. In How Personalisation Needs to Have its Ford moment, they advance a case for total automation of marketing communications, engineered through artificial intelligence and distributed ledger technology, which recognises an individual user's behaviour, personal context, and anticipates the attention to the message.

The Bronze Award was won by Richard Morris of Whistlejacket for his essay titled You Don't Know What's Good for You, which argues that efforts at personalised brand communication have resulted in choice overload for the consumer, and can lead to heightened levels of consumer expectation, which, if not delivered on, result in a negative brand perception.

"It's easy to explain why a personalised campaign should work to a CFO or CEO – they get it in theory," noted another Admap Prize judge, Steve Hatch, Facebook's Regional Director for UK & Ireland. "The consistent theme that most essays highlighted was how this is eroding the trust consumers have."

All the awarded and commended essays will be published in the June issue of Admap and all the shortlisted essays plus other selected essays are published online at from June 2nd.

Data sourced from Admap