Phorm takes a bullet for the advertising industry
Lightning conductor or plague carrier? You decide...
The unlikely image of Phorm boss Kent Ertugrul as some kind of John the Baptist of behavioural targeting was conjured yesterday as advertising industry leaders pondered the future of online advertising.
"I think from a media owner perspective it was good that Phorm drew the sting for everybody else," Microsoft Advertising sales director Chris Maples told the audience at the International Advertising Association's Digital Download in London.
Phorm, the general consensus seemed to be, had "taken a bullet for the rest of the industry," but the quest for more relevant - and hence more lucrative - advertising on the Internet continues. This may turn out to be an overly optimistic analysis, however, because although Phorm has provided a textbook example of what not to do, it's still pretty easy for everybody else to catch stray bullets. In the next few weeks the US House of Representatives will be considering legislation on the subject, and a team from Brussels is due in Washington this month to coordinate regulatory measures.
Meanwhile in a speech earlier this week, EU Commissioner Viviane Reding cited behavioural advertising as one of three major privacy concerns, the others being social networking - where she threatened to act if Facebook et al did not, at minimum, make the profiles of minors private by default - and RFID (aka the Internet of Things).
David Wood, legal counsel for Brussels lobbyist ICOMP and one of several attendees who had also been present for Reding's speech, reported that there was currently a "huge interest" in behavioural targeting in Brussels, and that Reding had been "devastating in her critique of Phorm." The Commission, he said, is not yet entirely up to speed as regards online advertising, having only started to look at it in the the last two or three years. But Wood says he has seen tangible changes in the atmosphere over the last 18 months, and that Europe now has the building blocks to begin dealing with the issues.
In Reding's speech, Phorm certainly continued to wear the bullseye. "European privacy rules are crystal clear," she said, "a person's information can only be used with their prior consent... The Commission is closely monitoring the use of behavioural advertising to ensure respect for our privacy rights. I will not shy away away from taking action where an EU country falls short of this duty. A first example is the infringement action the Commission has taken with regard to the United Kingdom in the Phorm case."
Insofar as Phorm and the UK government continue to draw fire over specific infringements, Phorm could certainly be seen as 'taking one for the industry', but an obvious consequence of the episode is that it's not just Phorm that now has trouble getting arrested. The fallout leaves a widespread view of behavioural advertising as sinister and invasive.
So in the one corner you have Microsoft's Chris Maples making the pitch for the convenience of relevant advertising via the eminently sensible point that if you advertise in Vogue, or in a football magazine, you expect to reach a specific kind of reader and the specific kind of reader expects to see a specific kind of ad. That's the pitch the industry has to sell Brussels and the US legislature, and it's one that is, up to a point, reasonable (but the reasonableness breaks down as and when you start getting tagged as 'football mag reader' wherever you go).
In the other corner, meanwhile, you have the recent survey by the Universities of California and Pennsylvania which found that most Americans don't want tailored advertising and object to being tracked. It's going to be a tough sell to both the legislators and the users. ®
"I've been web-connected for nearly 15 years, have seen endless online ads for all sorts of goods and services, and can count on the fingers of one hand (with several unused) the number of times any online ad has influenced my behavior as a consumer"
The problem is that is only your perception, and you probably HAVE been infulenced, but not realised it. That is why I hate advertising. It works best for something you don't normally buy. The bastards in the marketing houses know full well that if you see the product label for their ignominious product, even if it is just to close the window each day, then come the day you are actually looking for one of whatever it is, and you are confronted by 3 different brands of it on the shelf, or on the page before you, you will subconciously, and that is the key, *subconciously*, choose the one you have seen before. They know it works or they wouldn't spend squillions on it.
That's apart from the subliminal voiceovers and bullshit music playing in clothes shops where they have evidence that playing music that people will associate with feeling good, (oh I remember this was playing when I was on holiday and had such a good time) makes them relax and let their guards down and buy stuff on impulse. It doesn't matter that you know it is being done, it still works. Advertising is mass manipulation bordering on abuse in my book, bastards.
Scary how close they came to pulling this off though...
I remember right at the start after reading the reg article "What about the MP's and Police communicating via the web?" it was obvious that the possible blackmail implications alone should have had the government shutting Phorm down.
But the links between:
The big telco who supported Phorm.
Were a little scary.
The big telco who supported Phorm has always been close to Big Government.
So was it an agreement of some kind? The thin edge of the wedge?
Or was it simply a huge get Rich Quick Scheme, and a lot of the Old Boys Network were asked to help out for a cut of the take?
I don't know but its only because of thinks like the Downing Street Petition and WriteToThem that we got people to listen up.
Also I have a much higher option of the EU after having seen just how far our government let us down in protecting us here.
Well done everyone :)
Oh and... Die Phorm DIE!
Marketers are scammers and liars, one and all
They not only lie to would-be consumers, but to the industries that pay for their services. They are selling to their employers a cock-and-bull story that denies the awful truth: namely, that advertising, by and large, DOES NOT WORK.
I've been web-connected for nearly 15 years, have seen endless online ads for all sorts of goods and services, and can count on the fingers of one hand (with several unused) the number of times any online ad has influenced my behavior as a consumer.
The only form of advertising online that works is Amazon's "People who bought this also bought..." system.
Madison Avenue is a house of cards, an emperor with no clothes, and I am the little boy who points out the obvious.