The contradictory evolution of data

The power of data has been underestimated for many, many years.

Don’t get me wrong – most people have a thorough understanding of Big Data and what can be accomplished from a professional standpoint, but no one could ever have anticipated all areas of use that our digital footprint makes possible – and how that might affect us as private citizens. Brilliant things can be accomplished with the correct use of data – more relevant ads, less clutter, automated processes, true one-to-one advertising and personalized product offerings to name a few. Take Spotify and Netflix as examples, where all of your activities boil down to personalized tips of the media content that you are most likely to appreciate. And let’s be honest, who dislikes more relevant tips? This type of data generated experience tend to get positive response from users, but it is a completely different story when people experience a breach of their personal space.

In-platform use of data vs cross-platform use of data is a key factor here

As users, we feel completely comfortable with our own generated history being applied in the same platform and to our own benefit (ex Netflix and Spotify) since our actions are directly connected to the environment we’re in. But as soon as we feel like someone knows things about us that they shouldn’t – we immediately feel as though our privacy has been breached.

Advertisers need to use caution when dealing with these things – as to not cross the border between relevancy and intrusiveness

“How do you do this?” – you ask. Well a first and crucial step is to know who you’re talking to but also know how they want to be talked to. It’s not what you say – but how it’s interpreted – that matters. Cross-platform use of data therefore needs to be relevant and insight based.

The most recent example (*) that has created a lot of media buzz is the discussion about how Big Data was a key component in Trump’s win and the campaign leading up to Brexit. Both campaigns used the same company and it can be argued that the approach successfully combined the connection of different data sources, data analysis and personalized ad targeting. At the moment of the campaign, no one felt like their personal information was exploited. It wasn’t until recently, when the approach was out in the open, that people started feeling uneasy about the way that their social media behavior had been used. One of the problems here is that the data is applied from and in a private sphere (ex social media) with a political agenda, where the discomfort does not come from it being used – but from us knowing about it. We are however more than happy to allow in-platform use of data and cross-platform use of data that boosts our experience, which is exactly what insight driven decisions can accomplish.

Needless to say, the data is only as powerful as the analysis, the ad copy and the core message conveyed. Without the proper knowledge of how to conduct data mining, connect different data sources and how to apply it on the data set, nothing is actually accomplished. Without a tailored ad copy and a core message that the observer understands, the campaign is worthless.

The moral of the story is to keep your message relevant, to know who you’re talking to, in what setting and how they’re interpreting your message. The contradiction between our will to have a better user experience and our longing for privacy can only be met with smart use of data. The Utopia that data can promise is achievable – it does however require thorough understanding, which (and I think I speak for most analysts now) is called a fun Saturday night in front of an exciting dataset.


Frida Boman – Head of Analytics and Campaign / InsightOne

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