Commentary

Data Piracy Is Here To Stay, So Are Unforeseen Consequences

Las Vegas -- At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, there were ongoing concerns over data piracy -- that more artificial-intelligence/decision-making algorithms will skew even more marketing efforts. Or worse.

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks talk at CES had this worry: "Insurance companies could use algorithms to deny life insurance to people who might otherwise qualify, based on their actual health history. Government agencies could apply algorithms to benefit review applications,” he said.

“Algorithms may even determine the deployment of 5G wireless service, deciding who gets it and who doesn’t. If the algorithm has embedded biases, people could be unfairly excluded."

New TV audience targeting technologies can work many ways, too.

What about marketing/advertising efforts? If 24-year-olds don’t need to see medication ads for diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and others, exclusion is welcomed.

Many want to grow addressable TV advertising efforts, which now comprise just 3% of all TV impressions.

Should those efforts grow, one would imagine impressions rising among new key viewing groups and substantially dropping elsewhere. That’s good, no?

But maybe those 24-year-olds need to be informed to help an older parent or relative. We then have thousands of new audience segments one can’t imagine -- at much smaller scale and crazy high CPMs to reach them.

Starks might have a grim view of future AI-data enabled marketing. The good news is: Age/gender still drives the traditional $70 billion TV advertising industry. Let’s hear it for inefficiency!

Starks might be staking the ground for future issues -- a warning about how bad actors could manipulate AI-driven marketing data in new kinds of ways.

Who knew in 2005 that the perceived friendly, harmless ground of social media would be fertile territory for foreign nations and operatives to manipulate advertising/messaging -- positioned as news and other content -- into aberrant political change?

Years ago at a CES event, a Comcast executive was implored by a veteran media agency executive in the audience to encourage his company to send big agencies set-top box data -- all to help marketers buy TV inventory, national and local TV.

To paraphrase, the response from the Comcast executive was: “Believe me, you don’t want all this data. It would be too much, too complicated to sift through, and bog down all your data systems.”

Less isn't more in the ad world -- efficiency, website visits, store traffic and sales. Sometimes, a little spillage is good. Don’t be greedy.

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