Our cover story this week on consumer attitudes to data surveillance clearly hit a nerve. The reaction of many industry leaders we contacted in preparation for our report speaks volumes — many bolted for the exit as soon as they saw the questions.

Perhaps they watched Mark Zuckerberg and his executives put through the wringer after Cambridge Analytica. Or maybe in the ensuing months, they witnessed the complete collapse of trust in the Facebook brand.

So kudos to the industry leaders who actually made their case. We just think it’s flawed.

Many complained that we didn’t ask the questions in our survey of over a thousand consumers in a way which put the digital marketing industry in a better light. They objected to us stripping away all their usual pretences and, instead, asking consumers directly how they felt about being monitored online.

Even the one seemingly positive result in the survey — where over 70 per cent said they wanted discounts on products and services tailored to their interests — might not be such a positive result after all. If we had simply asked “Do you want discounts on product and services?” the number might have been closer to 100 per cent!

Furthermore, nobody really wanted to address the suggestion that consumers might prefer to buttress their own privacy over receiving any relevant advertising at all.

And that is the most important point we believe Which-50 readers can take away from our report, as well as from the recent New York Times study, and earlier work by MIT and Capgemini.

Too many marketers and industry leaders have convinced themselves that consumers understand and approve of what they are doing. The evidence is all to the contrary.

Perhaps worse still is the widely held shibboleth that a personalised advertisement or email is somehow a fair swap. Remember what’s happening here: consumers are surrendering their rights to privacy to a vast, global data surveillance system where their every single action is logged, scrutinised, repackaged and sold to the highest bidder.

Raz Chorev, the CMO of Orange Sky CMOs, said it best: “Seeing a tailored ad isn’t a benefit to the viewer. It is only a way to maximise return for the advertiser. Therefore the consumer isn’t interested in giving away information, to give benefit to the advertiser. I think this is pretty straightforward.”

Here’s the bottom line: The primary objection of consumers is not to the advertising — it’s to the surveillance.

Until marketers — and the martech industry that enables them — acknowledge this simple truth, the disconnect between consumers and the brands who want to sell to them will continue to grow.

Eventually it will break, and that will be bad for everyone. Just ask Facebook.

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