The creepy fine line of targeted advertising

Andrew Birmingham traces the fine line between smart personalised marketing and poorly targeted advertising.


Brands can have too much data on customers; meaning the marketing message goes beyond personalised and moves in the realms of downright creepy. When that happens, they’ll fast reach for the adblockers.

This is the view of Teradata’s industry evangelist John Timmerman, who was speaking at yesterday’s ONE Marketing Connect conference in Sydney.

Interestingly, Timmerman quoted Teradata’s internal research that found 86 percent of consumers felt that brands captured too much personal information about them. However, 85 percent were happy if the information got them better service or product recommendations.

“Never flaunt what you’ve captured about me to me. (When brands) wave the stuff that we know about you in your face and that’s when it gets creepy,” Timmerman said.

“It’s things like EDMS; do you want your first name used in a communication? Sure it is, but if I contextualise the message and be responsive, that fits you where you are right now you’re going to feel ‘this message resonates with me.’ Perfect timing, perfect channel, great!

“But if you start using people’s ages or the names of their children – it doesn’t mean that I don’t know it – I’m just not inclined to overly personalise the message, and it’s the balancing act that you really have to find, and if I showed (a customer) all the things I know about you, that I captured about you, that’s the wrong way to go about it,” he said.

Timmerman agreed that when the messaging went too far the customer would fast reach for the adblocking software and all of the marketers hard work would come unstuck.

“People are blocking inconsistent messages and poorly targeted messages. So long as your message resonates then they (customers) won’t block those,” he added.

“It becomes permission-based marketing. I cannot market to you unless you allow me to. A brand needs to ask permission to market to a customer and as long as they’re doing the right things I’ll receive their communications.

“But if it’s just retargeting, something is just following me around all these different websites, that’s when it gets weird, that’s when it bothers me and that’s when I’ll put up the defences, the adblockers,” he said.


Originally published on and is reprinted with permission.


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