Time to stop stalking consumers, and earn their attention authentically


Agency News



Nobody likes it when they are stalked across social media by an ex - so is it any surprise that people feel the same way about brands?

You would have hoped that most marketers would intuitively understand this. But there can be no avoiding it now as new data has demonstrated that consumers universally reject a marketing model based upon stalking and surveillance. With the introduction of App Tracking Transparency (ATT) in iOS 14.5 iPhone users were asked to grant or deny permission for an app to track their behavior on other apps on their phone. The data just published by Flurry Analytics, a subsidiary of Verizon Media, after the first 2 weeks of ATT being live is simply jaw dropping. 

Around 96% of users have opted out, and in doing so they have rejected out right the surveillance advertising system. They’ve also blown out of the water the insistence by Big Tech that people love ‘personalised’ advertising. They love them about as much as the intimate observations of a stalker - in other words, not at all. This unanimous response is all the more remarkable when viewed in today’s cultural context. We’re constantly being fed stories of how divided a society we live in, and how it’s impossible to get people from different political viewpoints and generations to agree on anything. Well, the world has been united by its wholesale rejection of this advertising model.

Facebook, whose business is most threatened by the introduction of ATT, has unsurprisingly been the most vociferous opponent to the changes of iOS 14.5. They’re so irritated that they even seem to be threatening to make their products pay to play with the prompt ‘Help keep Facebook / Instagram free of charge’. But to try to resist or ignore the clear demands of consumers at this point would be madness. Marketers should rather take a look in the mirror, and consider what implications this has for how they plan to drive growth moving forward.

The power of data has revolutionised advertising over the past decade, but there is now a clear line that cannot be crossed in the pursuit of data for more ‘effective’ marketing. People simply don’t want their data to be sold so they can be sold to in a spooky, surveillance like fashion. If there is a silver lining to this pretty dark cloud it’s surely that the demise of surveillance marketing will be a huge boon to genuine creativity in marketing. Performance marketing has too often been used as a crutch when a company lacks the ambition or nerve to embrace creativity. 

In this new ATT normal, with the performance of performance marketing in inevitable flux, it becomes even more important that a brand leverages creativity to drive impact and differentiation. Brands will have to redouble their efforts to actually impress potential customers, rather than  relying on the dark arts of surveillance. Fortune should once again favor the brave and imaginative over the manipulative and cynical. 

This may come in the form of ‘first party engagement’ on Tik Tok, where brands are encouraged to make Tik Toks not ads. But the most creative and daring brands are already going way beyond this. Gucci celebrating its 100th anniversary by launching the The Gucci Garden on Roblox is redefining how a luxury brand can behave and engage. And Nike’s masterful curation of its SNKRS app is demonstrating how the levers of scarcity and spontaneity can be pulled to create brand heat and salience on a whole new level. Creativity baked into a brand’s UX and ecommerce experience is a trend that is only going to grow and grow.

Bold and authentic relationship marketing should also come to the fore. Communicating directly and transparently with customers is the polar opposite of following them without their consent. And so companies that are able to implement loyalty and customer service experiences that grow LTV will be more competitive and primed for long term success.

The results of the ATT opt out rate are ultimately a wake up call to advertisers to raise their game. If an ad in any consumer test got a 96% rejection rate it would never see the light of day. So now the world has told advertisers to stop stalking them through their phones, it’s time to find a different approach that works for both customer and brand.