At MediaPost's OMMA Social conference Tuesday, panelists discussed the creepy factor: It's all about etiquette when it comes to where and how to gather data.
But as John Montgomery, COO of GroupM Interaction, North America pointed out, the real problem is that people are largely ignorant about what marketers and agencies are doing.
"The reality is consumers have a 'Minority Report' fear about what we do," he said. "It's the connection between what the 'black hats' do and what the ad business does that makes consumers feel violated. It's bad press around what 'they' know about you."
David Rollo, chief strategy officer at Blinq Media, said the first challenge is communicating with consumers what data is being shared when. "The other challenge is getting better using this data to target audiences to give them relevant, targeted, meaningful messages."
When Raghu Kakarala -- SVP of technology for Engage, who moderated -- said that one issue compounding the "creepiness" factor of data mining is that marketers tend to show their clumsiness vis a vis what, where and when they pitch.
"There are different aspects of my character: me at work, me with my kids at home -- fundamentally, don't we have these different aspects being picked up on, and that's the 'you' being targeted?" he said. “These are aspects of me, but any one ad in wrong context doesn't really target the 'me' I want representing me."
His example -- one we are all familiar with in one way or another -- s that if he spends 2% of his online time thinking about what to buy for his mother, and then gets an overabundance of marketing messages about Mother's Day, that gets unpleasant and "creepy" at its worst.
Chris Emme, East Coast sales director of RadiumOne and Rollo, carried that argument to real-time bidding. "We have, right now, the capacity to find you in the right mindset, when you engage certain content that's relevant at the right time," Emme said. "That's when the reepiness factor will be vetted in the market."
Said Rollo: "It's context, device and environment, and we have control over that if we are smart marketers. There is no excuse to throw ads at people because they are cheap. We can buy impressions on the long tail for pennies, but it irritates all the other people who have contact with the brand."
And the panelists agreed that ads aren't welcomed in social. "But they are welcomed in search," Montgomery said. But if we speak to people with hard sell, we will have failed. We must acknowledge the environment we are in, understand where the consumer has been and where they are going next, as well as who they talk to and the signals we get from them in the social environment."
The panel also took up Facebook's IPO and its potential to throw a wrench in the social site's ad policy.
Eli Goodman, "media evangelist" for comScore, Inc. who spoke later, said three-fourths of all of the time people around the world spend on social sites is spent on Facebook, and one in seven minutes online is on the site. He said there are only five major markets where Facebook is not the number one social network.
Kakarala asked if the industry is ready for a potential backlash post-IPO: "A new wave of publicity, from the press making this public. Are advertisers ready?"
Emme said the IPO will utterly change Facebook's business dynamic.
"They will live in a three-month world,” Emme said. “The mentality will change. Facebook has been successful because they have run their own ship. Now they have massive partners. What they do with data is going to be hopefully based on the market, what it’s able to sustain, but they will push that line because they will be responsible for driving revenue."
Montgomery said the bigger issue is that consumers still don't understand the Web's revenue dynamic.
"There is a huge amount of communication and education that needs to be done,” Montgomery said. “We collect data so we can monetize the Web, and create a value equation to give consumers free stuff. Ninety-nine percent of the Web is free. It’s not about better ads; what we should be telling consumers is they have a jewel there, a miracle -- and 99% of it is free. We have missed an opportunity to tell consumers this."
For perspective, Eli Goodman, media evangelist with comScore.com, in the following panel showed some telling stats: while total Internet use is up 88%, social is up 174%. One in five minutes online is spent on a social network site.
"Social networking behavior both transcends and reflects regional differences," he said, noting that one-third of social networkers are in Asia, while five of the top ten "most engaged" social markets are in Latin America.
Speaking of microblogging as a disruptive force, Goodman said the most-tweeted moment last year was during the MTV music video awards when Beyonce said she was pregnant.