Wearable technology may present new opportunities for advertising matched with an individual’s emotions and dispositions, but privacy must be at the forefront of marketers’ thinking, an article in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR) has argued.

Davide C. Orazi (Monash University) and Greg Nyilasy (University of Melbourne) discussed this topic in a piece entitled Straight to the heart of your target audience: Personalized advertising systems – Based on wearable technology and heart-rate variability.

“First, smartwatches’ digital interface allows for the delivery of multiple advertisement content pieces and formats, a concept currently well understood,” they argued.

“Second … sensor technology integrated into wearables can capture the audience’s emotions through biometric features extraction – most importantly, heart-rate variability – paving the way for interactive, personalized advertising systems that allow for temporal segmentation and targeting.”

The authors quoted an estimate from Gartner, the intelligence provider, which suggested that the wearables market could be worth $42bn in 2019 as one proof point regarding its potential.

More broadly, they asserted that using wearables to understand an individual’s emotions and dispositions constitutes a major advance on current marketing practice.

“Advertisers have been aware of the need to temporally match advertisement delivery to consumers’ ever-changing moods, particularly, at a macro level (i.e., as a generally understood principle or matching based on larger chunks of consumer time),” they wrote.

“Accordingly, temporal situatedness, for the most part, has been reflected in common media-planning considerations, such as seasonality effects, dayparts, pulsing/flighting schedules, or effective frequency.”

However, Orazi and Nyilasy also warned about “significant privacy concerns” related to using wearables in this way. Data leaks are one roadblock, especially given the mix of real-time health-related, and geographically-specific, information on offer.

Another issue is the “personalization-privacy paradox”, as consumers want to receive content that is highly relevant, but can be resistant to profiling that feels invasive.

“The advertisement for a mindfulness meditation application may be most relevant and useful when a consumer is experiencing sadness, yet the same consumer may react defensively precisely because of the timely advertisement,” the authors proposed by way of example.

One possible solution is giving consumers greater control of, and access to, their own data – a move that has gained traction with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union, and will be essential for biometrics.

“We suggest it would be advisable to enact harmonized federal regulation to give consumers clear control of their biometric data in the US as well. Otherwise, the risk of serious heartaches is elevated significantly, for all involved,” Orazi and Nyilasy wrote.

Sourced from Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by WARC staff