With Home Address Identification, Reveelz Takes Targeting Too Far

My mom’s been on my mind a lot lately. Understandably so -- she passed away recently, and we held a celebration of her life this past Monday. Setting my own biases aside, she was a pretty outstanding woman: founder of the oldest health-supportive cooking school in America (of which I’m currently chair), writer of multiple books, and generally a pioneer in the relationship between food and health, before said relationship was at all mainstream.

So the celebration wasn’t just close family. Her friends, colleagues, staff, and current and former students came out to honor her legacy. We told stories. Had a musician play music from Argentina, where she grew up. And we showed a compilation music video of some of her core teachings.

One of her tenets was the idea that anything can be turned to its opposite. It’s obvious that extremes of junk food are best to be avoided (see "This Is Why You’re Fat" for delightful examples like the “Krispy Kreme Donut Dog”), but too much of a health food can also be poison. Even drinking too much water can be fatal.



All things in moderation, including moderation. It’s a lesson that neither originated nor ended with my mother, but it’s one that we have neglected to heed in the marketing world.

When advertising first came around, it was actually a major public service. How else could you discover the options that were available to you, the particular brand of horse and buggy or the newly arrived muslin at the general goods store? Advertising surfaced content that the consumers genuinely wanted and had no other means of accessing.

Increasingly, however, our ad model has become one of shouting over each other, fighting to be heard among the cacophony, and more often than not fighting to convince people that they need something they don’t.

As ads become more and more ubiquitous, and as advertisers become more and more sophisticated in the use of technology and big data to cut through the clutter, everyone is forced to continue upping their game in order to compete.

Against this backdrop emerges Reveelz: an Israeli company that has figured out a way to identify your home address -- and whether you’re there -- simply by having you opt into a Web or mobile offer. As my MediaPost colleague Joe Mandese reports: “The test offered consumers access to ‘premium’ content in exchange for opting in to receive ‘targeted advertising.’ Once they opted in, Reveelz's method scours a variety of publicly available databases, such as the U.S. Census, and via a series of cross-references utilizing machine algorithms, narrows it down to one physical address to that individual.

“Once a consumer’s physical address is identified, Reveelz uses it [to] identify information about the consumer that matches other marketing databases.”

The founders don’t know what it’s going to be used for yet, but they do know it “solves a major pain point” for advertisers because it doesn’t use cookies. Charmingly (by which I mean not at all charmingly), they’re going to use the word “brownies” instead, “’because that sounds better than cookies,’ says Jon Bond… a consultant and investor and… one of several high-profile Madison Avenue advisors to Reveelz.”

They’re not wrong; increasingly, accurate targeting does indeed solve a major pain point for Madison Avenue, and, if the endeavor works, they’ll probably do extremely well with it. But it’s gross. And here’s the problem: we don’t like gross things if you ask us, but our passive tolerance for privacy invasion appears to be nearly limitless. Which means that, once tracking your home address and whether or not you’re there becomes the norm, they’ll need to go further: your social security number, maybe. Your bank balance. Your willingness to rack up even more credit card debt.

We’re rapidly approaching the point where our ability to target becomes too much of a good thing. And too much of a good thing, as my mom would have said, can be poison.

2 comments about "With Home Address Identification, Reveelz Takes Targeting Too Far ".
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  1. Henry Blaufox from Dragon360, May 29, 2015 at 11:07 a.m.

    Consumer marketing based on home address has been used for decades - mail list rentals, subscriber lists, the ubiquitous "bingo cards" of years past through which one "opted in" by taking the time to identify preferences for other products, hobbies and so on when you bought something (volunteering that information was the forerunner to opt-in.) Zip code targeting using the census demo data is also a version of this.

    The difference now is the sheer volume of data available, and speed at which it can be more precisely targeted at relatively low cost. As for access to sensitive data like SSN and financial information, that sort of thing can and should be protected by law. I would also note that the example Ms. Colbin gives about "willingness to rack up more credit card debt" (not to mention whether you are likely to handle it) has been analyzed for decades by the banks andd other card issuers. That is why the offesr are sent in the first place - credit rating plus zip code demo data plus, in the case of your bank, first party data about your financial history.

    Is it the speed at which Reveelz can sift data that causes some unease?

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, May 29, 2015 at 11:58 a.m.

    The direct mail piece cannot control your connected home or your connected body. "We are begging to be controlled."

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