Thought Leaders in association withPartners in Crime

A Personal Dichotomy: Using or Protecting Consumer Privacy?

Advertising Agency
London, UK
INFLUENCER: Saatchi London's Head of Social Media Tim Mcloughlin on the balancing act of using consumer data

The data I can access as a marketer about behaviour excites me and has created a bountiful world of plenty that never before existed. As a consumer should I be worried about how much of my data corporations and marketers have? Can marketers use data to deliver more timely and relevant advertising while protecting consenting consumers and their data? Can the advertiser and the consumer in me both be happy? 

I spend my working day evangelising about the growing array of targeting opportunities available to advertisers online and on social media in particular. I’m able to deliver advertising to niche audiences at exactly the time they are likely to want something I’m offering. 

The digital footprint we leave behind has become so detailed that we know when someone is going to have a baby, buy a car or go on holiday. Linking that to traditional demographic data sets means advertising can and should be hitting the right person with the right message at the right time, every time. I love that. It gets me excited whenever I’m planning a new campaign, as there are always more opportunities available.

When I remove my Mad Men suit and step out of the office into my civvies I want something different. I want my privacy to be respected. I hate a badly targeted ad as much as I hate PPI calls.

I first questioned the ethics of the burgeoning targeting opportunities after talking to someone who used to work at GCHQ.

The utility of technology is often linked to the level of data held by the service provider. I’ve provided them with it.

Four entities know where I am at any time, yet three of them aren’t people:

- My girlfriend


- Apple

- Uber


Is this acceptable? That depends on whether I’m getting value in exchange for what I’m giving. That also assumes I’ve given informed consent.

I accept that my girlfriend knows what I’m up to. We made a deal. GCHQ? I don’t really have a choice, and they protect me from the bad guys. Are Apple and Uber bad guys too? 

Apple knows where I live and work even though I never told them. If you have an iPhone check “frequent locations” in your privacy settings and you’ll see exactly what time you left for work every day.

Uber’s made my life so easy I’m using taxis like never before. Now they know where I live and where I have fun. If A – B means A and B become business opportunities for Uber, each one becomes another consumer of my data and another customer revenue stream for the company.

If that means I get a promotion for something extending Uber’s utility beyond the taxi on a night out, I’m happy with that. If the company packages up my data for sinister ends, such as playing “god” with people who write bad things about it, then I’m not. 

When I get back to work I want to ensure the data gold mine keeps presenting new opportunities for my brands. If the advertising we plan gets more personal and relevant and the partners we work with create new value, consumers will be happy.  If it’s abused it’ll become a problem, but that can and should be avoided. 

It is possible to get the work me excited while satisfying consumer privacy. Advertisers need to keep adding value to consumers with personal, relevant, and timely content. If data providers keep the data anonymous I don’t foresee a backlash.

That way both the advertiser in me, and the one using Uber to travel between social engagements will be happy. 

Tim McLoughlin is Head of Social Media at Saatchi & Saatchi London

Work from Saatchi & Saatchi London