Is Hyper-Personalized Marketing Killing Social Culture?

Imagine living and interacting with technology and advertisements, in a world where EVERYTHING is personalized – it’s all about YOU!

Books, billboards, search engines, display ads, your thermostat, your home computer – all of them are constantly speaking about you, talking to you specifically – everything is about you, your choices, your purchases, your habits – it’s all about YOU!!

Now, imagine living in a world where technology and advertising is impersonal, a world where everything is NOT ABOUT YOU!

All of the content and advertisements you interact with are static – the messages and delivery of marketed communications happen to everyone around you equally at the same time. There is a general absorption level of content across a wide social spectrum. Society interacts with mass media, and that symbiotic relationship inspires both to change and evolve together.

Now – envision the psychological differences between citizens living in the first society, versus citizens living in the second society. . . 

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Two Schools of Advertising

Of course I am being reductionist here, but I think advertising can be segmented into two schools of thought –

1) –  Hyper-personalized ads – powered by Big Data amassed from customer surveillance –  Ads are able to follow customers wherever they go; on their fridge, in their phones, in their car, on their desktops, on their kid’s faces, on all the billboards they pass.

2) – Mass media – powered by impressions, communicating through shared values on larger scales, interacting with and inspiring popular culture on a societal level. Advertising aims to get groups of people talking to one another about a common, shared experience. The public square – the big billboard – the SuperBowl Commercial – the water cooler.

Modern marketers use a mixture of both of these approaches when it comes to advertising, but more and more our culture and society is embracing the first school – hyper personalized experiences, big data science, surveillance.

Could hyper-personalization and heavy curation of advertising environments to the individual level, endanger our society, our culture, our idealogical mobility?

What happens to the individuals living in a society that depends economically on its citizens living in a hyper-personalized world? Does this reinforce our echo-chambers, our egos, our narcissism?

What are the psychological ramifications of living a commercial existence that is shaped and tailored to fit your every need, understand your desires, predict your behaviors?

As marketers, do we question what kind of society we are creating when we adopt the latest technology, advertising philosophies, or market research capabilities?

Do we recognize the important and powerful effect advertising has on shaping people, on shaping culture? What will we lose when we abandon thinking about advertising, marketing and business development on a social level?

What kind of consumers are we creating?

What world do you want to live in?

Is there a socially responsible way to market products and services, develop sound business strategies, and create valuable, meaningful advertisements – without having to monitor and collect everyone’s search engine history, credit card purchases, FitBit analytics, social media posts/reactions/shares, private messages, emails, voting records, chats, thermostat usage, medical history, media consumption, driving habits and bathroom usage?

What do you think?

POSMarketing Myth – The Democratization of Advertising

When I hear that advertising is being “democratized” by Facebook and Google, I cringe. Marketing and advertising thought leaders talk about it incessantly – Examples of this are here, here, and here.

However, what seems to be a “democracy” of advertising, is in realty a monopolization of advertising, and paired along with it, possibly, the destruction of actual democracy.

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Social media has been around for a while now, and a lot of industries, companies and even countries – have felt the power of social, both negative and positive.

From the revolutions in Egypt to the collapse of the newspaper industry, social media has been purported to be a tool of “democratization,” where the will and voice of the people are being heard. People are now in charge!

The local mom and pop shop can take control of their advertising on Instagram, do their own Google AdWords, and finally have access to their customers through the genius of Facebook. These new found abilities are what is being referred to as the “democratization” of advertising.

Last year, digital advertising raked in around $72 billion – 89% of that revenue went into just TWO companies – Google and Facebook.

So what was originally seen as a boon to the local advertiser, a means to connect them with their valuable customer, should really be seen as the continued support of just TWO companies. And these two companies have a goal to dominate every transaction on the Internet. So is this democracy in action?

What does the well-meaning marketer have to say to the recent reports that Facebook collected well over $100k in ad revenue from a Russian troll farm, which spewed out profile-targeted disinformation during the 2016 US Presidential Election? They denied this for months – and now, it turns out that they did profit off the propaganda. Not only that, Facebook also assisted the Russian efforts with their always expanding suite of top-shelf marketing technology.

Facebook provides advertising access to any user that creates an advert account. Doesn’t matter who you are, or what your intentions are, as long as the Credit Card runs. They’ve also collected a MASSIVE amount of user generated data, that can be parsed to identify psychographic profiles, which can be used in turn by advertisers, or other nefarious parties, to slowly adjust behaviors and even influence voting outcomes.

This “opinion manipulation” technology was harnessed to subvert campaign finance laws by Cambridge Analytica in such recent hits as Brexit, Trump in US, Marie Le Pen in France, and recently overturned elections in Kenya.

 

With evidence popping up that shows FB promises an advertising reach to many times more people on the planet than Census data shows exists, are the marketing gurus right to call this the “democratization” effect?

Tools like Google and Twitter actually increase our political divisions, because these sites run on hidden algorithms that select what should be shown to who, and when, and why. And no one knows how the algorithms work. Doesn’t sound democratic.

And lastly – Technology is Not A Great Equalizer!!

Access to all of the tools associated with the “democratization of advertising” are still dependent on economic and technological advantages that are unattainable by a large portion of the Earth’s population. The person/company with the most money, the fastest connectivity to broadband, and the most talented manipulation of big data sets (the lifeblood of social) will win the advertising game on social, every time. For people with no access to the internet, and a throttled utility-based market economy around telecom industry, the big money that lives on FB and Google is out of reach completely for a vast majority of us. This, to me, is the final nail in the coffin for the myth of democratized advertising.

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Marketers need to really start engaging on a tactile level with this issue, start discussing the ramifications of these metastasizing monopolies, and stop throwing around the word democracy. The expanding economic in-equality and rise of nationalism and political subterfuge across the world is directly tied to our love of these behemoth companies, and our blind belief that their inherent structures are supported by good causes and people. We need to open our eyes.

To blithely think that the “people” are in charge, as we pad the walled gardens of FB and Google with our advertising money, is stupid. The long-term survivability of civilization is at hand, and while marketers hail the new revolution of people-powered advertising networks – the entire fabric of trust and democracy is being ripped apart, boiled and bleached, and turned into money for two giant companies.

Isn’t it a great time to be a marketer!?!

Marketing to Vulnerable Populations & The POSMarketer

 

Emotions, Conversions.pngMarketing – it’s everywhere! Advertisements and sales pitches surround us like birdsong in the forest. In general, people have come to ignore ads and some can’t even see them, becoming “ad-blind.”

So it’s no surprise that Waze has snappily announced the launch of special geo-targeted ads that will pop up inside it’s mobile-navigation app, as potential customers drive by determined locations. The possibility to convert users of the app is too good to pass up – What could possibly go wrong? marketing, advertising, social media marketing, emotional intelligence, POSMarketing, distracted driving, WAZE

Erika Lehmkhul is a Visual Designer with Waze, and she suggests that the success of an ad on their platform lies in its creativity, and the clarity of its design. Opting for the simplistic look of billboards, Waze suggests to advertisers that they keep it simple – “When you eliminate clutter and distracting elements, your ad can shine.”

What a load of dangerous bullshit.

US traffic deaths are on the rise for the second straight year, and along with high speeds, no seatbelts, and driver impairment, distracted driving is quickly becoming the main reason for accidents and fatalities on the road.

“It’s not just talking on the phone that’s a problem today,” said Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association. “You now have all these other apps that people can use on their phones.” 

  • Surely, Waze knows that in a growing number of states, its illegal to use a handheld GPS device in a car.
  • Surely, they must also be aware that every year, about 421,000 people are injured in crashes that have involved a driver who was distracted, and the alarming increase in distracted driving fatalities in 2017 alone.
  • Surely, Waze is using it’s influence as one of the most downloaded navigation apps in a grand attempt to address the dangerous vulnerabilities of cellphone addiction, which is at epidemic levels amongst all drivers.
  • Surely they know that pop-up ads on a navigation app would be distracting. And surely they know that we are all vulnerable to the random notifications we get from our phones. And they have to know that distractions in a car usually end like this. . .

(Photo by Steve Nehf/The Denver Post)

Marketers traditionally take pause when advertising to kids, the elderly, or anyone not able to cognitively understand the underlying purpose of an ad. These populations are considered to be “vulnerable.” The audience behind the wheel of a car is certainly not able to cognitively engage with advertisements, and they should be classified as a vulnerable population.

According to “Marketing Ethics,” by George Brenkert, “Marketing directed towards vulnerable populations should be aimed at lessening or removing the vulnerabilities, not self-profits.”   

Waze has yet to address its role in distracted driving and the accidents, near-misses and fatalities associated with this epidemic. Neither Waze, nor its parent company Google, have any initiatives or safety campaigns to educate the public on distracted driving or cellphone addiction. And, with a recent partnership with Spotify, which allows use of both the Waze and Spotify apps AT THE SAME TIME WHILE DRIVING, Waze demonstrates that generating ad-revenue from its 50 million-deep user-base is the only topic they consider valuable. And why not, that’s how you make money!

But imagine what they could do if they launched a nationwide campaign to end distracted driving, if they developed proprietary safety features that made using the app less dangerous, launched events to educate new drivers on the dangers of distraction, provided online resources on safety behind the wheel and partnered with National Highway Traffic Safety to engineer distraction proof roadways and intersections in towns across America. If they did that, what’s the worse that could happen?

Bottom line – Waze pushing distracting ads to cellphones inside a moving car is a blatant disregard for safety, its unethical, its a manipulative marketing move to grab cash out of eyeballs that might soon fly through a windshield, and its a classic example of some POSMarketing.

For more insights on ethics, marketing, and POS – Follow me on twitter – @POSMarketer