There’s No Such Thing as a Free (Data) Lunch

When I am explaining the latest media innovations to our clients, I often get responses somewhere between “Wow, that’s so cool” and “I feel violated!”

In the recent New York Times article “You See That Billboard? It’s Looking Back at You,” similar reactions are discussed.  Legacy media formats are working hard to stay relevant in the era of big data—as  we expect more performance metrics and results, our media partners push harder to advance ad tech capabilities.

There are, of course, tradeoffs.  Most obviously, the “creepy factor,” as some believe this technology invades on our privacy and provides information to advertisers of which we may not be aware.  There are other costs to consider as well; as new data technology emerges, we have a better glimpse into how media is being consumed, but the numbers rarely tell us the whole story.  If we make too many decisions based on a part of the story, do we miss out on valuable opportunities by eschewing the unknown?  As our ability to target specific consumers becomes more precise, there is the danger of  forgoing equally important upper funnel awareness and exposure activities.  In addition, the ability to receive more sophisticated data often comes with hard costs.

Innovation and data collection are central pillars of a successful modern day marketing strategy, but we must balance what’s new with careful consideration of how we grow audiences in cost-effective and responsible ways.