Last night The Royals hosted our second Flux event: ‘Candy from Strangers: Marketing in a world going anonymous’. A panel of interested and curious people discussed and debated the potential of privacy concerns going mainstream – and what effects this might have on brand and marketing. There are a range of different aspects of privacy that are beginning to find a place in public discussion. Last year’s revelations about the NSA overreaching in their snooping had social networking companies racing to declare their exclusion from the programs. Online and social advertising rely heavily on personal data to drive relevance and effectiveness. And so, in a medium term scenario, where anonymisers and ad-blocking take off, we could see a lot of pressure on marketers to deliver value outside traditional ad formats (“native advertising” anyone?).
So how do we offer personal and relevant creative communication when consumers decide to retract into their own data shadows? And how can companies keep the trust of their customers with privacy missteps becoming more and more frequent, not less?
For brands, is ‘Privacy’ the new ‘Green’?
Our Panel consisted of Tim McColl-Jones from Qantas, Dan Rosen from ARIA, The ALP’s Skye Laris, Christopher Joye from the AFR and Dave King, Head of Strategy at The Royals.
It was a lively, colourful discussion with plenty of interaction from the audience both in the room and over Twitter. The conversation began with Chris talking through his experience interviewing the former Head of the CIA and NSA, General Michael Hayden. He noted that the level of penetration of surveillance by the NSA in the Snowden revelations, was so perverse that people were shocked with a common reaction was “I was unaware of this kind of activity and therefore it’s scary”.
The panel and audience also shared stories of personal data infringements, credit card fraud and being hacked online. It was generally felt that despite increasing media coverage, it’s first hand experiences that it leaves a mark – and potentially alters your behaviour in the future. Whilst this may seem obvious on the surface, it becomes more interesting when we think about how rapidly (or not) concern about privacy and personal data may go mainstream. Some on the panel consider this a niche issue amongst the general public – others suggested that concern was getting more pervasive across various consumer groups and industry sectors.
The potential growth in the desirability of anonymity was also an interesting point of discussion. It was felt that some consumers might pay more in exchange for not having their data stored or accessed for other purposes. Dan mentioned that services exist that can erase your online presence and history completely, but that this was a difficult and expensive process. And then from Skye: “So only the rich get to be anonymous” (the rest of continue to trade our personal and behavioural data for access to services).
When it came to generational particularity, Dave suggested that the notion of young people not being concerned about privacy could well be a fallacy. In fact, recent studies have suggested that Millennials and Post-Millennials are more likely, than society as a whole, to stop using a product or service because they were worried about the way it may use their personal data. He also proposed that a good way to understand our own relative concern about these issues might be to think about how we would talk through it with our children.
In a comment from the audience it was posited that much of the discussion was around companies misusing consumer data but that there were many great opportunities for it to be used positively, suggesting that many brands may be asleep at wheel when it comes to delighting and inspiring customers with data led experiences.
Many thanks to all the panellists and the audience for their time and generous contributions to the discussion and making this a fascinating collective enquiry into a topic I’m sure we’re going to hear more and more about.