identity spam vs. useful advertising

Identity Spam. That's what will happen in the future. It will happen when advertising uses your personal information in a way that you find inappropriate, harmful, or just annoying. Picture yourself walking in a department store, passing a clothing isle and getting a text message stating there is a sale, or picture yourself browsing the Internet and all the ads have your name in them. Those are two examples of what I think might be seen as Identity Spam.

Now contrast that with the alternate scenario:

Useful Advertising. That's what will happen when advertisers know enough about their consumers that they can tell them exactly what they want to know, when they want to know it. Imagine that you are shopping for a car. You have looked at a few, but haven't found your exact match so you ask the dealership to track your location and tell you when you're near a dealership that has the car for which you are looking. So you're on your way to the grocery store and get a message that you're 1 mile away from a dealership that has your car. That's useful.

As you can tell, I'm trying to illuminate the tension that will exist between our personal information and useful advertising. It is a tricky proposition. When does advertising go from creepy to useful or useful to creepy?

I can think of a few keys to success in this future world:

  • Control: the consumer must feel in control of how she receives messages.
  • Transparency: advertisers must tell her why she received a particular personal message and how we know what we know about her.
  • Respect: advertisers must respect her privacy and willingness to engage us in a dialog.
Parting thought: assume you don't have the right to tailor a personal message to your consumer, not the other way around. Providing useful advertising is a privilege that must be earned, not a right to be taken advantage of by all advertisers.


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bendango said...

I would place more weight (all of it, really) on a customer's possession of control than on their perception or "feeling" of it, as exemplified in your keys to success.

A change from consumerism to citizenship is in motion and people who purchase/request products and services should have simple, straightforward means to control their receiving ads via physical technologies.

The assumption that people want to/should be advertised to is a dangerous one.

T. Willerer said...

bendango, great comments. thanks. i think we're getting into semantics because i agree that we should have control over our information.

also, nice head-nod to seth godin with the use of "citizenship". i like that concept, but not the word. it carries too many preconceived notions. that said, i don't have a better suggestion so i shouldn't criticize too much.

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