Creepy Personalization

Again, Don’t Be Creepy

In 2018, consumers have largely accepted that marketers use an online log of their behaviors and spending habits to target digital audiences with relevant ads.

A Pew Research Center study found last year that most Americans determine their online privacy rights case by case, with 47 percent saying they’re comfortable with retailers tracking their purchases to deliver better deals.

Now major brands, including Spotify, Netflix and Cost Plus World Market, are testing the waters by using their troves of user data to drive not only the targeting, but the creation of their ads. Many of these campaigns seem like experiments designed to determine just how much of their own data people are willing to tolerate.

At what point do you creep someone out?

Many people were amused when Spotify first used data mining in a series of oddly specific ads last year. One billboard read, “Dear person who played ‘Sorry’ 42 times on Valentine’s Day: What did you do?” The campaign was so popular that Spotify tweaked it and brought it back. One banner read: “Skip dinner invites from the people who added these songs to their playlists: Slippery, All of Me, DNA.”

That may explain why when Netflix piggybacked on Spotify’s first campaign with a single pre-Christmas tweet that read, “To the 53 people who’ve watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past 18 days: Who hurt you?,” it drew some inevitable haters, who questioned why it called out just one small group of users.

Research shows that when you use personal information and you don’t add value, it’s intrusive.  The value in Spotify’s ads being it showed it listens to all users.  However, with access to so much data, you have to be careful to not go too far — like ads that are re-targeted too many times or ads that targets the wrong person.

Would it creep you out if someone can tell what brand of sweater you’re wearing just by your phone number?