an annual adspend budget of more than $US70 billion, media planner GroupM is the largest purchaser of advertising in the entire world.
In addition to the money it manages from big brands looking to get their messages in front of the widest and most appropriate audiences, GroupM also manages huge troves of consumer data through its Xaxis division, which uses analytics to determine where brands should run ads online.
Xaxis and online ad buyers like it have been at the center of a debate over online privacy, as the effectiveness of the campaigns they run requires anonymously tracking users as they surf the web.
It therefore doesn’t come as a shock to hear what the company’s global chairman, Irwin Gotlieb, had to say with regard to his preferences for how his own data should be managed.
In a conversation Tuesday at Business Insider’s Ignition conference in New York, Gotlieb said he would prefer the convenience of targeted advertising relevant to his interests to an assurance that his privacy has been secured.
“I would rather have relevant messaging than have my privacy protected because the reality is that none of us have privacy anyway,” said Gotlieb, who is considered by some to be the most powerful man in media.
Gotlieb clarified that nobody at GroupM believes the company should be giving away personally identifiable information, but said that the practice of grouping and labelling a swath of individual consumers, known as audience profiling, “should be used as a good” to show consumers ads they are more likely to find useful.
Further, Gotlieb said marketers and retailers need to do a better job of explaining to the public how the consumers themselves benefit when companies use their data in targeted advertising. Otherwise, those opposed to such data collection will persuade the public to oppose it.
“We need to change the tone of the dialogue,” Gotlieb said. “We’ve been on the back foot as it relates to the privacy discussion from Day One.”
Gotlieb’s call for marketers to be more proactive in explaining targeted advertising echo those made in September by Macy’s consumer strategy executive Julie Bernard, who attributed much of the public’s ambivalence about the practice to negative media spin.
“Consumers are worried about our use of data, but they’re pissed if I don’t deliver relevance,” Bernard said in September. “… How am I supposed to deliver relevance and magically deliver what they want if I don’t look at the data?”
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