What’s the Deal With Advertiser Data Gathering?


I remember when everyone was so excited with the introduction of Alexa and Google Home.  How cool to just voice your wish, question or command to a box on your coffee table and find out everything from the daily weather report to what Kim Kardashian wore to the Met Ball.  Oh, then sync it to your iTunes music library or Spotify/Pandora and play whatever artist you want by just saying the title of the song.  Cool, right?

Well, then everyone realized that all of this personal information was being kept in a huge database and mined by companies that could sell it to marketers.  Technology has now made building personal files for every U.S. citizen, tracking our actions and movements, as easy as going online.  That’s not always a bad thing, but let’s just be real about it.

It’s pretty amazing when your refrigerator is smart enough to tell you when to buy milk, but do you really want the milk manufacturers and their competition to know you’re out of milk every Wednesday?  All of a sudden you start noticing ads in your inbox on Tuesday for milk or alternatives to milk.  Or maybe it doesn’t matter to you, that’s part of modern life in America.

It doesn’t sound like a big deal to some consumers, but to others, it’s way out of their comfort zone.  In reality, it’s not just marketing information that’s being recorded or listened to when these smart devices are in your home. It’s everything that’s said or picked up by a device.  What’s the balance between cutting edge technology and marketing/data gathering?

It’s hard to say and difficult to edit.  It seems that you’re either “all in” or you can try to avoid it all together.  It’s not something you can partially allow in most instances because it just multiplies and grows without you even knowing.  Before you realize it, you’re “all in” and you weren’t even aware you’d allowed it to happen.  You just thought you were buying a cool refrigerator or a virtual assistant.

So far, we’ve mostly been discussing desktop or in-home use of the Internet, but mobile is a whole other animal to consider.  Your smartphone is tracking your every move both literally and figuratively.  The communication tool we hold so near and dear to our very existence in a modern America is not only valuable to you for personal and professional communication, it’s quite literally broadcasting your every move.  Your web searches, your online pizza ordering at 2am, your physical location at all times, your media consumption, your commute, well, your EVERYTHING.

As we’re all moving forward in a Mobile First era, the advertising industry is trying to put some parameters on mobile data location gathering.  This article from AdvertisingAge explains more:  http://bit.ly/2oeO4Px  Mobile has become and will continue to be the most valuable data gathering tool out there.  Our addiction to instant information is to blame, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Are you willing to give up your privacy in order to have every answer, direction, communication, game, etc. at your fingertips at all times?  Some say yes, that’s just fine!

What’s the harm of letting these advertisers learn everything about you and your family?  Wouldn’t that mean that the “spam” ads you’re going to get anyway would just be more targeted?  Who cares if your political affiliation, health history and personal choices are now public record?  Is it worth it to get Home Depot ads sent to your phone while you’re IN a Home Depot where you can readily use them?

That’s very true, but it also means that advertisers will apply Artificial Intelligence (AI) to your information and machines will start making assumptions to take the next step in marketing to you.  It will be pretty crazy when you start getting dentist ads because “big brother” knows you’re due for a dental cleaning.

This, as I see it, is only an improvement to what we’re seeing now.  More targeted means more interest and engagement on the part of the consumer.  If I’m served ads that actually interest me or make me think I need the product, that’s a win-win for me AND the advertiser, right?

This isn’t the last we’ll hear about data gathering by advertisers and marketers.  What we’re seeing now is just the tip of the iceberg.  It will surely continue to grow and improve and we’ll soon be able to tell advertisers how we want to receive information and on which screen it will be most effective.   Get ready!