In advertising, think privacy – and SnapChat

Written by on June 16, 2015 in Opinion with 0 Comments

butler bellThere is a lot of discussion about that amazing contextual moment when you drop an offer in front of a customer at exactly the right time and he clicks ‘buy.’ There is also discussion ignoring privacy and doing it at exactly the wrong time, or in the wrong way, and he clicks ‘never again.’ We have decided that ‘creepy marketing’ needs to be watched. Knowing that a customer rang you after getting stuck on a particular web page is one thing. Saying to the customer ‘ah, yes, I see you were on this page, how can I help you?’ is another, and creepy.

We thought that the difference between creepy marketing and privacy was an age thing. Those over 50, say, would think Google offering you a photo album of a recent city break, complete with a map and annotated photos was creepy. Those under 50 might think it was cool.

We recently met the real difference between telecoms operators and digital service providers. It is called ethics, and many operators have ethics committees. Digital service providers do not. Their approach is not to consider the ethics too closely, but let the customer judge whether it is cool or creepy. If the customer judges a service to be creepy he will not buy it. So the digital service provider closes the service. Easy.

Privacy, we decided would be regulated in the short-term, probably ineffectively – you can create regulations, but that is not the same as regulating something. In the long-term, the customer would solve the privacy problem himself. At a recent seminar, a data scientist said that he asked his interns what they did online, and these 20 something year olds eventually admitted that they had more than one online persona. One was pretty public, one was very private.

What we did not understand was that the young guys are solving the privacy problem already. Snapchat’s CEO Evan Spiegel, built Snapchat to be private. He (at 25) is very aware of the cumbersome way in which advertising works on social media. Buy or click on something and an advert for that product follows you round like a salesman selling carved wooden elephants. When you have already bought one. He promises that there is no meta data trail, once the 10 second window has closed and the content that was online no longer exists. Yet, he is selling a lot of advertising to big names – McDonalds, film makers and big publishing houses, without needing to sell the customer’s complete online life. With 83 percent of Snapchat users being between 13 and 24, he understands that privacy is his unique selling proposition. And he delivered it.

With even young but mighty companies such as Twitter ousting their CEOs because they could not attract enough advertising, the young are taking up the reins. And advertisers, ‘older’ digital service providers and operators should look at SnapChat – and then rethink their contextual offer strategy.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .

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