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Knowing Me, Knowing You

and All Your Personalised Advertising Needs

I saw Bono on the Graham Norton Show this weekend.

Bono, the man who has the biggest collection of hatchbacks in the country. To be fair, Bono came across OK. Naturally, the whole Enforced Download Debacle came up. He likened it to being Father Christmas and receiving a good kicking after descending the download chimney. Although it is very Bono to liken himself to a Saint, this is a valid point, as people usually love to get something for free. But there is something disconcerting about it in this instance. It’s the intrusion. It makes you think: what else could they download on to my phone as I sleep? Maybe something not as horrific as a post 1991 U2 album, but maybe some form of spying programme?

This story has got a lot of negative press (but ultimately all, “good,” publicity, I suppose), as people become increasingly worried about privacy and intrusion from technology and those who wield it. After his defence of the download, Bono pulled out an acoustic guitar, so I changed channel. Sorry Bono, it’s just not that kind of evening.*

So we have unwanted albums from U2. Unwanted tweets and sponsored ads from Twitter. It would be understandable if the collective consumer shouted out: “Just leave me alone, seriously.” Retargeting advertising already has a dubious reputation; the idea of the same advert for the same pair of shoes stalking you electronically all day is more irritating than creepy. I was once followed around London by a guy holding a “Golf Sale: This Way,” sign, but that was entirely different. And creepy.

Personalised advert breaks are already with us. You may not have realised. There are also some quite amazing TV advertising concepts for the future. You may be watching Eastenders, for example, and the adverts within the programme itself, on the sides of buses or the billboard over Walford station, will be personalised based on your household’s consumerism and Internet activity! All sounds a bit Minority Report, but an immediate problem that presents itself to me is if me mum pops round to mine to watch the Eastenders omnibus of a Sunday, and a bus goes past behind Ian Beale with an advert for, “St Petersburg’s Extreme Dominatrixes 4,” emblazoned on the side. But don’t worry, as in all likeliness I’d just be able to indignantly blag that Transport For London’s commercial department is a bloody amoral disgrace, as my Mum’s understanding of technology is somewhat limited.

There is a lot of talk of tailoring your home media experience to get the advertising you want. But does a person actually want advertising? I think a person wants, or rather certainly benefits from, good advertising. They want a good product and advertising is their portal to discovering it. Rory Sutherland conjures a lovely image of advertising being a, “virtual engagement ring proffered to the potential consumer.” 
The expensive, quality advertising marks the beginning of a long brand-loyalty relationship. It builds credibility and inspires trust. Too much intrusion can jeopardise this, but personalised advertising can create amazingly helpful, inspired outcomes that add real value for the consumer.

It’s the intrusion. It makes you think: what else could they download on to my phone as I sleep? Maybe something not as horrific as a post 1991 U2 album, but maybe some form of spying programme?

Ikea are targeting our dinner times with the twin assault of synchronising mobile content with TV ads. With the strapline, “Every Meal is a Special Occasion,” it’s successful, but these synchronised tactics feel a bit contrived, and thus the cynic that is in a lot of us can render the earnest sentiment unauthentic. Agencies still need to create a brand over time, and poorly conceived retargeting advertising can undermine the longevity of the brand. Also, these methods often have obtuse context. I don’t think Ikea wants to be ramming happy-family-unit meal advertising into the home of a man whose wife and kids left him three weeks ago. It will send him into despair, and the fresh personalised ads for dating websites, based on his new data, will come too late!

But don’t fear what you don’t know. The complex, murky creature that is the Internet and Information Technology is almost a living entity itself, but it is not the Matrix, with machines ruling the world. Behind every single IT system is a human with a motive. Think more Wizard of Oz. These are exciting times in technology and marketing. Successful advertising campaigns will be about intrusion moderation and quality of concept. Although, if we ever get to the point where Dot Cotton asks me through my TV, as an aside to the camera, whether I want a pint of Guinness, I will reach for my virtual reality blunderbuss and give her a volley.

*A big doff of the cap to Steve Coogan for this blog’s opening salvo.

 


 

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21/10/2014

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