People Pattern Wants to Target Ads Specifically To You – But is it Ethical?

Got ethics ?

In a similar move to what Twitter did in 2007, new data company People Pattern is planning a major launch at this year’s South by Southwest. In the age of big-data, this company can sift through the huge amounts of information on the web and paint a picture that companies can use to develop very narrow marketing campaigns aimed directly at you. People Pattern calls themselves a data science company.

According to their co-founders,  Ken Cho, the former CEO and co-founder of Spredfast, and Jason Baldridge, an associate linguistics professor at the University of Texas, People Pattern uses science to analyze the words people use and they people they associate with through social media. These patterns can pinpoint super specific segments of customers. social-media-mining-ppt-1-638This information can be used to tailor messages for any group which ultimately can “develop  content, generate sales leads, and in media planning.”

“We’re able to scale it, collapse the timelines and you’re able to take action directly,” says Cho.

As an example, Cho and Baldridge described the work they did recently for a global fast-food  restaurant. People Pattern was tasked with identifying “switchers” which were defined as the segment of customers who go back and forth between themselves and competitors. After the fact, People Pattern reported that within eight days they were able to pull in 600,000 social media profiles with very relevant information that they were able to gather by analyzing  posts, tweets, likes, comments, and all other forms of digital interaction.

They were able to find that 25% of switchers routinely back and forth with another specific brand of sandwich shops. It was further gathered that these switches were because of health perceptions.

So what can the burger restaurant do with this information?

Cho says that these specific switchers can and should be targeted with advertisements and messages that highlight their chain’s healthier options. Not only does the company now know that a certain subset of their customers feel the need to go elsewhere for healthier choices, they know exactly who those people are!

But is this ethical? Some people think not. rtway_wrongway1

David Vinjamuri explains that even though these “breaches” are not malicious, consumers who feel like their private information is being collected and analyzed are turned off and scared away for the most part. Facebook for years has straddled the privacy line and have made many updates to the types of personal information that are automatically shared.

Although the data that’s available from online consumers is a resource that every company would value. It’s not a bad thing to want to know about your company’s customers and it’s not a bad thing to want to target specific messages at them. However, in my opinion, there’s a line that these companies are getting dangerously close to. To me, these companies are violating privacy by diving into people’s lives even if the information is shared publicly.

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One Response to People Pattern Wants to Target Ads Specifically To You – But is it Ethical?

  1. sydhavely says:

    Totally on target on this issue of “who owns our data?” Great post, Jake.

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