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The Shift To Digital: Your Missed Opportunity? (JWT Huddle Interview)

Once a year MindShare open up their office and run Huddle. It’s an eclectic and cosy digital media fair focusing on interaction with the latest interactive gadgets, issues and thinking.  Advertising Agency JWT ran a workshop with us on the findings of their Control-Shift report published earlier this year and we participated. Towards the end of the event I did a Q&A with Elizabeth Cherian from JWT.  This is an extended version of our conversation: 

1) We have asked people all over the world how they feel about data exchange, and what’s clear is there’s a lot of discontent. 92% in the US and UK say they are looking for more control over who can access their data and what they do with it.  What are the key issues that are spurring on this need for more control.  

A: We live in a period of unimaginable potential and also deep uncertainty. We’re shifting out of the Industrial age and into the new Digital age.  For everyday citizens of the Internet, you’d think that our digital world is over run with hackers, security breaches, cyber criminals and mass surveillance by government and companies.  It’s good newspaper copy but the result is fear and anxiety about our digital world. Well over half a billion people now use ad blocking tech. There’s an underlying discomfort.  “I want these services that make my life better and easier, but I don’t completely trust them”.  This has hugely negative impacts on all transactions which include personal data – which is pretty much everything that happens on the Internet.  And the Internet increasingly touches every aspect of our lives. If we are going to ensure that our digital Century serves us all and enables humanity to flourish, we need to create the services and principles that are fit for that purpose and enable the ambition. We’re a long way from where we need to be, but the Internet moves quickly.

2) Clearly there’s an absence of trust.  Nearly three quarters say it’s not clear to them why companies need their data and what they are doing with it, and a whopping 87% are worried that companies aren’t concerned enough about consumer privacy.  What options do people have?  How do you see the ultimate impact of brands not playing fairly with consumer data?

A: As an industry we have a lot to do.  The shift is happening very fast. If we embrace the shift and engage with consumers there is a huge opportunity. Consumers DO want to get value and they DO want to transact – as long as they’re in control.  By moving with the shift – we can actually make the commercial Internet an order of magnitude more efficient and effective for all. Brands that don’t get this, and those who try to stick with business as usual, will find the going gets very tough. 

3) We gave our respondents a long list of brand activities, from loyalty reward programs to product design, and asked them to rank them in terms of what they would be most interested in influencing.  Remarkably, personal data management topped the list, beating out price and discounts.  What do you think this means for brands? How should businesses respond? And are there any businesses that are already getting this right?

A: It means brands need to see their customers as equal participants in an ongoing relationship. We now have the technology to do this, everyone has a smartphone.  Interaction can already be personalised and real time, this trend will accelerate.  The catch is that to do this, all companies have become data marketing companies. BUT if companies seek to hold deeper and deeper personal data, they’ll break trust and damage or lose that precious relationship.  The new EU GDPR legislation will compound this.  So what to do?  We’ll there are solutions, and it’s possible for brands to get out ahead of the shift and flip it into opportunity.  Some forward thinking companies are already creating these new participatory digital services. Some of our Clients are among them.

4) Talk to us more about the personal data economy.  58% are willing to share data so long as the there’s a benefit – with more than half willing to share if they save money or get paid.  How do you see this new marketplace coming into play? 

A: This is an immensely important statistic and we see data confirming it again and again, for example the DMA found 59% of people are willing to share.  Why’s that important? We’ll it shows that the mass market, most of us consumers, now understand that there’s an exchange, and we want to participate.  There are three broad groups and the split is 20/60/20.  20% simply don’t yet understand that there’s a transaction, or don’t care (yet).  Another 20% understand that their data is used and feel very uncomfortable with this, so they seek to lock down their accounts and, wherever possible, withdraw their data. However the remaining 60% seek ways to utilise their data on their terms – they want to get a better deal.  They want to understand how their data is used and want tool to help them leverage it.  This understanding is very new and this group didn’t exist just a few years ago.  Moreover, this group is still growing.  Our expectation is that as tools (like Citizenme) start to arrive, direct digital participation will become the new normal.  The question is: Can Brands move fast enough to capitalise on the new opportunity?

StJohn Deakins

StJohn founded CitizenMe with the aim to take on the biggest challenge in the Information Age: helping digital citizens gain control of their digital identity. Personal data has meaning and value to everyone, but there is an absence of digital tools to help people realise its value. With CitizenMe, StJohn aims to fix that. With with a depth of experience digitising and mobilising businesses, StJohn aims for positive change in the personal information economy. Oh… and he loves liquorice.

All stories by: StJohn Deakins

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