Dastardly data

In my blog YouTube caught collecting children’s data we talked about the ethics of collecting children’s data. However, the question of ethical data usage is something which has become increasingly concerning over recent years. The Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal, in particular, recently brought the practice of personal data usage to the average consumer’s attention.

For marketers the use of data can increase the quality of sales leads, prospecting accuracy, territory planning, win rates, and decision maker engagement strategies. The evolution of data technologies and analytics has created new marketing opportunities but also opened up a myriad of ethical challenges, such as the targeting or exclusion of minorities through dark ads. Consumers still struggle to understand the nature and scope of the data collected about them, and only 9% believe they have “a lot of control” over the data that is collected about them, despite 74% saying that it is very important to be in control of who can get their information.

The ability to collect more granular data grows, typically faster than rules and guidelines can be written to keep pace. Thus, although a marketer’s use of data might be guided if their company or industry has clear data usage guidelines, it ultimately has a large reliance on their own personal ethics. The integration of ethical data practises, that address questions regarding the technology’s influence on society, will be what the future of digital marketing relies upon.

What do you think about the ethics about data usage in marketing? Should there be more rules in place to protect and inform consumers about data collection?

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What are chatbots really learning?

Artificial intelligence (AI) has come far in recent years, particularly in customer support systems, like chatbots and virtual assistants, with 40% of large companies (over 500 employees) planning to implement one or more virtual assistants or AI based chatbots. This is because of their many benefits, such as being an employee that never needs a day off or a break. They are not perfect, and oftentimes customers will need to talk to a human, but they can improve overall efficiency.

However, there is a dark and concerning side to how chatbots operate. As AI chatbots learn by collecting and analysing data, they can collect, and therefore learn, the wrong things. For example, the highly publicised take down of the Microsoft chatbot Tay, which learnt racist language and promoted Neo-Nazi views on Twitter, and Amazon’s AI recruiter that would not hire women.

Image courtesy of CBS News

Marketers should consider the privacy issues as customers often don’t know what information they give away, and customer decisions can be unethically influenced by an AI building a relationship, and ultimately learning how to persuade them more effectively over time.

As AI is based on probability and statistics, if it learns to use factors such as race, religion and sexual orientation, it can unfairly disenfranchise a segment of the population, even if this is not expressly in the algorithm. For example, in America if you have zip code and income in your algorithm, your AI may begin making recommendations based on race

As chatbots become more prevalent, digital marketers need to be aware of the ethics and concerns around them, and ensure that these technologies are developed with ethical considerations in mind, in order to reap the benefits on offer. It may be important for companies to be more transparent with what they collect from consumers, as well as to make sure these are developed with the mind-set to improve customer experience. Or even just providing the option for customers to opt out of data collection should they wish to do so. 

What do you think? Do you think chatbots running today have these ethical considerations in mind? How can we ensure consumers remain protected? What do you think are the key things to look out for when developing a chatbot? What do you think this means for the use of AI chatbots in future digital marketing?

Feature image courtesy of GreatLearningBlog

Pandemic and Potential, part two: Adapting to the new world

Read part one of this blog here.

Last week we began to discuss how brands and digital marketers are adapting to the Covid-19 pandemic currently sweeping the world. As consumers stay at home they are avoiding places where they traditionally might spend money like restaurants and stores. Businesses who don’t adapt to this new normal may perish. Thus brands are reinvesting in-person marketing money into digital strategies. 

During this time there are critical changes that digital marketers should make in the rapidly changing environment such as keeping consumers in the loop regarding changes, communication keeping pace with the virus. Marketers also need to be prepared to change or stop campaigns, for example a hotel in a city that gets shut down.

Many companies are reducing their advertising budget due to the uncertainty caused by the quick changing situation. Although, as people stay indoors and spend more time online the cost of online advertising has become cheaper. The increasing traffic on social and media platforms indicates that digital marketers should engage in more content marketing. 

Companies in China, the first country hit by the pandemic, are already starting to do this, with luxury fashion brands using live streams to showcase their Autumn/Winter 2020 runway shows.

Image courtesy of Jing Daily; KOL Yvonne Ching hosts the Burberry Tmall livestream session.

Brand Lanvin worked with video platforms Douyin, Yizhibo, iQiyi, and Secoo (the largest online luxury retailer in China)  to create a cloud fashion show during Paris fashion week. The collaboration created a VR experience which gave the audience a front-row seat of the fashion show. The brand later built a VR flagship that allowed customers to shop virtually at the flagship store in Shanghai and instantly connect with sales associates on WeChat.

Although the pandemic is causing many to suffer, it is pushing brands to expand and develop the way they communicate with consumers using digital marketing. It is interesting to think about where digital marketing will go from here. Which of these trends will stick around after the pandemic is gone? Will digital marketers continue to pull back from advertising and focus more on content? Will there be more VR shopping experiences rather than those in person? Perhaps, only time will tell.

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Pandemic and Pandering, part one: Why am I getting so many emails?

Even those living under a rock can’t have missed the crisis the world is going through now in the form of the Covid-19. The people living under a rock might even be doing the best self-isolating.

Gif by Tenor

As restrictions, in Australia and around the world, get tighter and tighter people are evermore relying on the web to connect us, the same proves true for brands. It may have started with the brands most effected initially, such as airlines and universities, though now it seems as though every company is sending out Covid-19 updates and marketing messages digitally to keep in touch with consumers. Although not yet government mandated, many retail locations have shut their doors, and we can expect this trend to continue.

I sure most of you reading have received an email like this, a company not just telling you what they’re doing in the situation, but reminding you that everything is going to be okay, and that they’re there for you. These emails may not seem like marketing at first as they don’t overtly advertise products, but they are a part of companies’ wider strategies, positioning their company as reliable and ethical which consumers may now gravitate more towards.

As companies reach out, do consumers feel as though they just jumping on the bandwagon to be a do-gooder or genuinely care? How can digital marketers manage the situation when they don’t want to seem as though they are ignoring the virus, nor appear as though they want to cash in on it?

The global pandemic is influencing the ways digital marketers engage with consumers as many change their strategies to fit into the new environment, for example rather than promoting party dresses, instead promoting comfortable active wear. As consumers stay home brands need to shift the way they conduct digital marketing. How will digital marketing adapt through this period to continue to deliver valuable messages to consumers?

In this new world brands that don’t adapt to digital marketing may flounder, as the landscape changes rapidly. In part two of this blog we’ll discuss some ways in which companies are adapting their digital marketing communications, and some more implications of this new world.

Read part two of this blog here.

Feature photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Gif by Tenor

Screenshots of emails from my own inbox from the following brands; Wittner, Melbourne Theatre Company, Bras N Things and Australian Laser and Skin Clinic.

YouTube caught collecting children’s data

In 2019, after an investigation by the American Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Google’s video streaming site YouTube, was fined $170 million for allegations it was collecting children’s personal data without their parents’ permission, allowing for personalised advertising to target those children. It is Google’s largest ever fine. In the USA children under the age of 13 are protected by federal law from having their personal information collected and shared.

YouTube claims that it is not for children under 13, (and has a separate app for under 13’s, YouTube Kids), however, it consistently ranks amongst the most popular brands for this age group. The FTC investigation showed that YouTube didn’t just know this, but used it to attract advertisers. Google compiles “identifiers” that follow viewers online, making an advertising profile that can follow them across the web. So not only does the YouTube site use personalised ads for children, it helps those personalised ads track them. For example, if a child were to watch an ad about a toy, advertisers could continue to show them ads about toys on other websites.

Youtube kids logo provided by Girgis

YouTube didn’t admit to any fault in the settlement, but will be making changes to their platform. The changes will attempt to better identify which content is targeted at children, and prevent that content from running personalised ads.

YouTube never admitted to wrong doing, so we are left asking, should they have to or are they doing their best to protect children? These changes will likely lead to less child friendly content on the platform, as it will be more difficult for creators to earn money from it. Where is the line between allowing the online platform to grow, and ensuring the safety of children?

This raises concerns for the way marketers can collect data, as they must ensure that they are not collecting data unlawfully, such as with children under 13 in the US. In the online sphere everyone is anonymous, which can make it hard to identify whose information you are collecting, including children who are unware of the implications of the data they give away. The rise in online viewing by children creates more opportunities for marketers, however it’s more difficult to do so in a safe and compliant environment, without unfairly targeting their vulnerabilities. If a large company like Google failed to ensure they were not unfairly targeting children, are companies with less resources able to ensure they use digital marketing fairly?

What does this mean for the future of digital marketing for children?

To read more about ethics in data collection read this.

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