Despite surround-sound rhetoric that the marketing industry is entering a new era of data-driven communications, concerns are rising that the information underpinning this person-level targeting may not be nearly as reliable as brands have been led to believe.

In July 2017, The New York Times ran an article reporting that Procter & Gamble had posted complimentary Gillette razors – complete with “happy 18th birthday” messaging – to a 50 year-old female academic in Alabama. It was one of many cases of mistaken identity apparently undermining Gillette’s long-running direct marketing campaign.

Such mishaps represent a blow for a company that has been vocal in predicting an upcoming shift to mass one-to-one marketing. Speaking to WARC last year, P&G’s chief brand officer Marc Pritchard admitted the company needed to “think through data standards and the ways [it] operate[s]” in managing its data, but this is unlikely to be a challenge that P&G can tackle alone.