The Creepy side of the online world


British Airways Boeing  777

British Airways Boeing 777 (Photo credit: michal818)

Did you read the Huffington Post article about British Airways who will Google passengers “To put a face to the name”? They cite articles from both The Mail and The Telegraph. The point is not so much that BA is doing it, but the reaction they get from doing it, as the Huffpost is putting it: creepy. BA is not the first organisation using available data in this way and will not be the last.

A media company I used to work with told me about a campaign that gave the target users the same feeling. They started quite early buying IP addresses of organisations and did an campaign for a customer targeting Law firms using big news sites where their targeted online ads would just show when the IP addresses they bought was on the site. The campaign was a great success – in a way… They got a lot of attention (because it was working as intended) from Law firms considering reporting them because they felt it was creepy being targeted this way…

From a communication side it was money well spent with a targeted message with a low budget on prime locations. From the users point of view they felt like being in George Orwell’s 1984 – watched by Big Brother.

People in general don’t like the feeling of being monitored, even though it happens every day e.g. through surveillance cameras or when using your credit cards, and when they are made aware of this through targeted communications it feels, well, creepy…

“Surprise is the keyword”

This is basic psychology based on the same principle as private space. If someone stands to close to you, they invade your private space and you get a feeling of unpleasantness. The space in question differ from person to person, as do the level of acceptances of online information about ourselves, when it comes as a surprise. Surprise is the keyword here. When someone knows more about you than you expected the level of creepiness increases.

The problem, of course, is that this is the way technology is developing. And from the advertisers or sellers point of view this helps making betters targeted communication with a smaller budget.

Even the Data Protection Act will not stop situations like these from happening. The development of Big Data and technology that makes it easier to extract information from these major data sets is all making it easier to target the communication.

 “The one who breaks the code of detailed information vs. the creepy factor would have struck gold.”

From my field of interest, sales, the movement from product driven sales to solutions and value driven sales increases the need for detailed customer information to present the right solution. The more information the sellers get through data intelligence gives a better picture of the customers needs, and by that a better targeted solution. But at the same time might make the customer uncomfortable when the sellers is providing so much information about their company that they might get the creepy feeling…

The one who breaks the code of detailed information vs. the creepy factor would have struck gold.

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