Out Of Control - It’s time the Adtech industry was taken… | ...Gasp!

Out Of Control

It’s time the Adtech industry was taken down a peg or two

He’s had to keep a low profile for a few months due to some tax evasion rumours, but The Blogfather returns from the Isle of Man bang on form with a riotous blog that lays into Adtech’s flagrant disregard for privacy, and the Tories. A great one-two punch combo.

Just like Facebook denied it didn’t do anything wrong in cahoots with the Cambridge Analytica cowboys. $5bn dollars says otherwise.

A recent lunchtime chat at Gasp HQ, to the backdrop of a wandering warbler of questionable vocal talent belting out Disney tunes from the marketplace below, covered topics including The Phantom of the Opera and pub quizzes.

Within two hours, the Gaspers who had respectively mentioned both had been served digital ads for tickets to The Phantom of the Opera, and for pub quiz apps.

People have already begun to suspect, and carry out tests to prove, that your phone is ‘always on’, (to repurpose a piece of industry jargon), and listening to you.

Make no mistake, this is happening. If your Alexa or your Siri is constantly listening, it is no huge leap of skepticism and logic to conclude your phone is doing the same. The cheeky bastards.

On the subject of Siri, a whistle-blowing Apple contractor has revealed to The Guardian that they are regularly listening to confidential details on Siri recordings, including drug deals (worries The Blogfather the second most), medical details, and people having sex (worries The Blogfather the most). Amazon and Google are reported to be doing the same.

Perhaps the greatest voice for truth and reason on the subject of the Ad Tech giants’ dirty dealings is a Gasp hero, Bob Hoffman. We recommend signing up for his weekly newsletter, but here’s a snippet from a recent blog entitled; Adtech: “Illegal and “Out of Control”.

“The ad tech industry, which underpins most of online advertising, is "out of control" and operating "illegally." That was the ruling by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) of the UK, their data protection watchdog agency. According to the ICO...

“Consent from users to be tracked is not being obtained legally. Real-Time Bidding (RTB), the auction process by which most online ads are sold, is illegally broadcasting private personal information about individuals all over the web.”

The vast array of ways the industry is harvesting your data without you being aware and then spraying it all over the internet like a muck spreader is too huge for this blog to cover. The ad and tech industries strongly deny they use a smartphone’s microphone to pick up targeting data. But of course, they would. Just like Facebook denied it didn’t do anything wrong in cahoots with the Cambridge Analytica cowboys. $5bn dollars say otherwise.

Speaking of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the man who was the mastermind behind the victorious ‘Leave’ EU referendum campaign that is still to this day dogged by accusations of close ties with CA, has re-entered the political and online advertising stage in recent weeks.

Dominic Cummings, called “The master of the Dark Arts” by The Guardian (well, they are a lefty paper), and played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the Channel 4 drama Brexit: The Uncivil War’, is now Boris Johnson’s chief strategist.

People noticed this slight-of-frame man in an ‘OpenAI’ T-shirt lurking in the background as Boris entered number 10, and then shortly after a suite of targeted Tory Facebook ads going live with different core messages, and put two and two together.

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His creation of the “Take Back Control” slogan for the Brexiteers, born out of loss aversion thinking, was a stroke of genius, whether or not you agree with how it was applied.

Dominic and his work divide opinion, but his talk at Nudgestock 2017 is worth a listen. The talk is refreshing for its frank honesty if nothing else:

“Could we have won without talking immigration? Absolutely not.”

“Most communications companies are populated by bull-shitting charlatans.” I think Bob H would agree with that.

From a very clinical, marketing-thinking point of view, Dominic and his team did a very good job.

They started with loads of (possibly not entirely kosher) customer data and research, and diagnosed the main issue:

“The core problem of the Tory brand? The NHS. And the Tory party is run by people that don’t really care about ‘me’. That’s what most people think. I know a lot of MPs, and sadly, the public are largely correct!”

They then mapped out and segmented the market, and identified a key segment to target who believed that the EU is rubbish, they want out, but change is scary, so they will probably vote to stay in.

They then positioned themselves accordingly to sway these voters and created appropriate messaging. They made the notion that to remain in the EU was, in fact, the scary/risky option, as well as to be pro-Brexit was to be anti-establishment, amongst other core messages.

His creation of the “Take Back Control” slogan for the Brexiteers, born out of loss aversion thinking, was a stroke of genius, whether or not you agree with how it was applied.

If there was stuff going in relation to acquiring people’s data that was not all above board, then maybe there is some karma/destiny about Dominic now being back at the helm to try and finally put an end to the mess that is Brexit.

All the guests at Nudgestock (a behavioural economics festival for those who don’t know), from 2017 or any other year, are well worth a listen. Every year Gasp goes down for an informative jolly to Folkestone to attend. It’s hosted by the legendary Rory Sutherland, who is also the latest guest on our new podcast; Call to Action.

Here’s but one of a trunk-full of informative nuggets from the Vice-Chairman of Ogilvy UK:

“The influence of marketing-style thinking, of psychologically-led thinking, and complexity-led thinking, deserves to have five times more influence over public policy and business decision making than it currently does.”

I’d assume that this is something Dominic Cummings agrees on.

Anyway, enough from me. You should go listen to an hour of us chatting with the one and only Rory Sutherland.

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