It’s not your data they want… It’s your attention!
There has been a whole lot of talk recently about our personal data and how it’s being used, sold or traded by big companies. Is it really as scary as it sounds? We’re not sure, and can’t speak for everyone, but it has to help to understand it better, right?
First, let’s look at how the business of attention works.
When you have the attention of the public, and the ability to share it, you have something you can sell.
It might be a TV show that people love to watch, a search engine where people go to find answers, a social media site where people go to stay in touch with their friends; even a bus bench people walk past on their way to work… If you own the attention, someone will want to promote their products and services next to yours.
The more influence you have, the more cash you can get
Typically, there are two factors that decide how much an ‘attention owner’ can charge for access to their audience – the size of the audience, and the amount of influence they have over that audience… Your favourite rugby team are a great example – it costs a lot to sponsor them because the people watching, their audience, LOVE them (like literally try to dress up like they’re on the team) and there are lots of them. The advertiser wants to show up near them because subconsciously when you think about that team you love, you’ll also think about them. And then the next time you’re wandering through the aisle of the supermarket, you’ll probably pick up their product, instead of something else.
So why all the excitement about personal data?
It doesn’t make sense for anyone to be selling or trading on your data because they’re nosy, or trying to track you individually, it’s much more likely that it’s all about being able to use the information to target advertising messages better.
Example: There are two types of people: those who eat potato chips and those who don’t. Of the first group, there’s going to be a whole lot of people who only like exotic flavours. And more who would NEVER pay more than $2 for a bag. So if I have a bag of potato chips to sell, and they retail for $4 per packet, I want to only put my advertising messages in front of the people who a) eat chips, b) like premium flavours and c) will pay more than $2 for the right kind.
Advertisers are clever – Their goal is to spend as little as possible, to reach as many potential customers as they can. Targeting these advertising messages, to hone in on the people who are most likely to buy, means they can spend less to get the same result. In the digital age, this is sometimes called ‘CPA’ or ‘Cost per Acquisition’, which is a calculation of how many advertising dollars you spend, to gain one new customer.
The more they know about the audience, the better chance they have of finding the customers who will buy. They’ll be able to use that information, to decide how best to inspire, interest and influence you, and they better they are at doing that, the cheaper it will be to get the job done.
Fanclub is a new way for community groups, sports teams and charities to use the attention of their audience to raise money. Find out more about how you can use your attention for good.
Psychologist Walter Dill Scott observed as early as 1903 that advertising can be effective without attracting conscious attention or being consciously recalled. Many successful ads don’t appear to contain a ‘message’ at all, and even if they do, a great deal else is often happening in the ad that seems to be more important. Some experts even argue that advertising is often more effective when it is not consciously noticed or processed; when we don’t notice we are being influenced, we cannot argue back.
The idea that advertising influences us subconsciously has often caused alarm – the classic fear of the ‘Hidden Persuaders’. But, today, evidence from psychology and neuroscience that shows that this is how much advertising works is overwhelming. We might find this less disturbing if we accept that this is not just true of advertising, but of everything: our responses to people we meet, to shops and other places we visit, and to stories we see on the news are all influenced by signals and associations we are often unconscious of, just as our preferences and prejudices are usually learnt in ways we don’t notice.