The way that we are exposed to and access new information has changed significantly over the centuries. From reading information engraved onto clay tablets in ancient Mesopotamia, to the printing of the first books during the Tang Dynasty in China we now consume the majority of our media in digital format.
Print newspapers are falling out of fashion, and the only tablets we are interested in today are ones with high resolution and a WiFi connection. Times have changed and along with this shift towards digital consumption, advertising has been forced to adapt as well. But it hasn’t been all smooth sailing. Advertising has found it hard to strike a balance between being helpful and being intrusive.
In 2021, we are in a situation whereby we are saturated with adverts. It’s estimated that the average person is now exposed to a whopping 6000 to 10,000 adverts every single day. These can comprise adverts on mobile, websites, social media platforms, and emails, as well as in magazines, on buses, and on billboards. Many of us are so used to adverts, we barely notice them anymore. This high number of adverts we are exposed to combined with a number of data scandals has led to diminishing trust.
A significant issue that leads to reduced trust is the presence of malvertisement. These adverts can seem like regular advertisements but they incorporate malware and viruses that target the user should they click on them. Once the user has clicked on the infected advert, they often find themselves directed to malicious websites or unwittingly downloading a virus to their computer. They can target legitimate advertising networks on reputable websites. To protect from this, advertisers and marketers can use software that provides enhanced levels of security and works to prevent such hijacking.
One of the most notable data scandals was Facebook/Cambridge Analytica. It came to light that Facebook had sold significant amounts of user data to British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. This data was then sold on to provide analytical assistance in significant political and democratic processes such as US presidential campaigns and the Brexit referendum in the UK.
A follow up to this was the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma. While many knew that social media giants were manipulating their behavior and even thought processes, few realized how extreme it was. It was reported that Facebook was using extreme analysis of behavior to try and get users to spend longer on the platform and see more adverts. This prompted an exodus from the platform as people objected to the amount of data Facebook held on them.
So what will marketers do now? In such a saturated market with consumer trust at an all-time low, they need to work hard to get consumers back on their side. There is a fine line between the obsessive collection of data to almost predict what people will want to buy (think when you’ve been talking about a product and then it shows up as an advertisement on Facebook) and providing personalized solutions for customers. Some may find it helpful to have products suggested which they are likely to want, but the key is to not be intrusive.