How Do You Feel? Advertisers Might Already Know!
Might the holy grail of advertising be the ability of advertisers to know how you feel at the time when they want to advertise products to you? If so, Project Feels, launched by the The New York Times last year, might be one of the steps towards ascertaining whether psychographic targeting of campaigns might be an effective means of marketing, as opposed to the more traditional methods of behavioural and locational tracking, which is currently used, primarily through cookies. If successful, this would mean that advertisers could ascertain the ‘mood’ of readers and to amend marketing content accordingly.
How do you feel about this? Is this a further unwarranted intrusion into our private lives, or a less intrusive means of delivering valuable content and material to those persons wishing to receive it? Not surprisingly, when we became aware of the topic, we were keen to explore what is taking place, and then to put this in the context of data protection and privacy rights.
An example of where this is already taking place is the U.S. based television sports channel, ESPN, who, as we understand, uses the technology in order to target TV advertisements to fans, based on whether of not their team is winning or losing. They are able to gather this information from their own app, where people signing up for the paid channel can elect to indicate their teams and sports preferences, in exchange for a more tailored viewing experience. Travis Howe, ESPN’s Senior Vice President of Digital Ad Product Sales and Strategy said, in 2018: “Whether or not a sports fan is happy, sad, slightly anxious, or overjoyed, we have the ability to anticipate their emotion and deliver relevant ads to them that creates a personalized experience.”
The context in which the The New York Times launched their research was based on the hypothesis that it would be possible to predict the mood of a person reading an article, and based on that prediction, it would be possible to ascertain what advertising the reader might be responsive to at that point in time, which in turn would enable advertisers to place more relevant adverts in the context of which they were shown. They call this ‘perspective targeting’.
Emily Bell, in her excellent article in the Guardian ‘How ethical is it for advertisers to target your mood?’ (5 May 2019), quotes figures, released in New York last week regarding the effectiveness of this targeted marketing, namely that click-through rates increased by 40% when using advertising aimed at moods, rather than targeted at previous behaviour.
Another alleged example of the use of this type of psychographic targeting is the Cambridge Analytica misuse of Facebook personal data, which helped Donald Trump to secure his place in the White House in 2016.
With regards to the intrusion into our private lives, the question of whether this this type of processing is lawful or not will depend on whether there is a lawful basis by which the personal data may be processed. If there is, and all other data protection compliance requirements are met, it does not appear to be unlawful for companies and organisations to engage in this type of marketing in our jurisdiction. Whether it is ethical and helpful to consumers may be another matter in some circumstances.