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?” asked Ian Mackenzie, executive creative director at data-first shop FCB/Six. He said all of FCB/Six’s clients are curious about how they can employ their user data but are hesitant to actually do it.
“It’s uncharted territory,” added FCB/Six president Andrea Cook, who said companies are fearful that, if they cross a line, they could “get called on the carpet.”
But where, exactly, is that line?
Many 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 this holiday season, in “2018 Goals,” broadening its scope to a more general audience. 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.