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All That Happens Must Be Known

If you’ve been a in book shop of late you may have seen Dave Egger’s The Circle on sale. This is due to a film adaption of it recently being launched on Netflix  - if you’re wondering, the book’s better!

The Circle looks at a dystopian near future, in which a large internet/technology company has created several products which allow and encourage constant sharing of a user’s life; which as you may expect doesn’t end too well. The premise of the book is very familiar, especially with the ongoing narrative around global tech and internt giants (Google, Facebook, Apple amongst others); as marketing and media professionals we see how much data they have and how important it is to reach relevant audiences. But it begs the question - does the consumer care?

The latest GroupM quarterly tracker (Q2 2017) looked at the following:

  • How worried people are about their data being used
  • If they think there are any benefits 
  • Are they happy with their data being used for more contextual messages

Let's look at these topics through the lens of a consumer to better understand the impact on society.

Leave my data alone

Ever been on Amazon and then hop into Facebook? You are immediately served with an ad of what you have just looked at. From a marketing perspective it’s clever, but is the consumer happy? In the recent GroupM quarterly tracker 62% of all adults said they are concerned about the amount of information companies such as Google and Facebook have about them. People are clearly concerned, but when you look at another figure within the tracker, adults on average spend 99 minutes a day on these platforms. These statistics show that while users are worried, they are still happy to use the platforms. The winners here are marketers, but would users be happier if there was a stronger value exchange?

Hey, do I get anything out of this?

In many sign-up or data collection campaigns some form of incentive is seen a way to encourage engagement. The GroupM quarterly tracker went a step further and investigated if the consumer believes there is an actual benefit to engaging. 52% of all adults disagreed with statement “I believe that allowing tech companies (e.g. Google, Facebook) access to my online data will benefit me”, with a further 36% neither agreeing or disagreeing. An opportunity exists for marketers to give stronger and lasting incentives when requesting consumer information.

What do you do with my data?

The practice of contextualised or personalised advertising makes total sense. You pinpoint a consumer based on their online habits, likes and interests. This data can be extremely beneficial for campaigns, but when posed with the statement “I am comfortable with my data being used for personalised advertising online”, 69% of all adults disagreed. Clearly advertising personlisation is not being recognised as a benefit. 

Fiction vs Reality

The Circle showcased a world in which people are highly transparent in all parts of their digital and social lives. In reality, we are not. The majority of adults are aware their data is being used and are clearly either not happy or somewhat ambivalent about it. As marketers, we must be aware of and respect this position. We will continue to build out comprehensive tools to target relevant audiences, but never should be too intrusive. It is important to respect the boundaries that consumers want when engaging with brands online.

The Circle is a piece of fiction, but one that should be treated as a warning: consumers are aware of their digital footprint and what’s being done with it.