The Price Of Personalization

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What kind of advertising do you want?

It’s a serious question. It’s a question that most consumers don’t ask themselves, but they should. I was invited to speak at Vogue magazine’s leadership conference in New York City the other week. One thing is certain about that magazine: people buy it for the ads as much as they’re buying it for the content. They’re not the only ones. Many people can’t wait to go to the movie theater to see which previews they’re going to show. When an upcoming movie is going to be previewed before certain movies, there are individuals who go to the film just to catch a glimpse of the preview. Personally, I look forward to the monthly editions of Wired and Fast Company in paper format, to not only enjoy the content, but the ads that are a part of it.

Sometimes we forget about the role of advertising.

Advertising doesn’t have to be a nuisance or annoying. The true role of advertising is that it acts as a commercial vehicle of information delivery. The intent of it is to create interest, desire and even action in consumers. Not all consumers. Just the ones that it is aiming to appease to. Sadly, we have spent decades being bombarded with ads everywhere (and not very good ones at that). So, here we are. The day and age when certain types of media outlets can now target and deliver an ad that we, the consumers, might find that much more relevant. We’ve seen it in the nascent stages of behavioral targeting and now in a much more pervasive way with remarketing.

But, there’s a big problem with marketers today.

In my second business book, CTRL ALT Delete, I delve much deeper into the problem of how marketers have done a terrible job of explaining the difference between privacy and personalization. It has become such a problem, that the pitchforks came out when I suggested that personalization is a good thing in a recent national newspaper article (Financial Post – Bell’s move to track customers’ web history, TV viewing sparks probe by privacy regulator). There are a couple of things that must be better defined for everyone to understand why I (and all marketers) feel so strongly that personalization creates the best win-win scenario:

  1. Private account information must remain private. That highly personal and sensitive information (who you are, where you live, your account information, payment methods, etc…) should never be shared or used without the explicit permission of the account holder.
  2. All other information that is being used to create a more personalized experience must be both anonymous and clearly explained to the account holder.
  3. Permission must be granted by the account holder to have their usage tracked for marketing personalization.
  4. The ability to opt-out – at any time – must also be clear and permitted.

Why we must not confuse privacy with personalization…

I believe this to be an amazing moment in time for brands, advertisers, media companies and yes, the consumer, as well. The more personalized the advertising, the more useful and good the experience will be for the consumer. The more personalized the advertising, the more media companies can charge for ads (hopefully, this means that the quality of ads will improve along with the price of admission). The more personalized the advertising, the more brands will ensure that they’re not wasting their time, money and/or energy on people who are only being annoyed or disrupted by the engagement (that would be an expensive waste). Still, we can’t get over this whole "privacy" thing. It’s too bad. If you ask consumers – over the history of time – what kind of advertising they would prefer, the answer has never changed. In all of the research, you will always see the same answers. They want "relevancy," "personalization" or ads that, "speak to them." Well, that time is here, and instead of embracing it, they’re rightfully being scared off because marketers have done a terrible job in the past of both protecting their privacy and rights, and clearly explaining that we can now personalize and optimize their experience without breaching any real privacy issues that can uniquely attribute their usage to anything but the usage.

It’s too bad.

One comment

  1. Anyone who believes they have privacy is kidding themselves. Afterall, just Google your name and see what eveyone in the world can discover about you. IN fact for many of us in a professional practice we WANT to be found.
    The set of 4 rules Mitch offers here is about as practical and realistic as we can expect. And in fact it serves us to have our marketing personalized to our interests!

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