Companies should not ‘cross the creep line’ when attempting to personalise and target their marketing warns Michael Bromley, group head of digital and creative services at Australian insurance company IAG.

Speaking at the CIO Summit in Sydney last week, Bromley predicted that individuals would eventually gain greater control of their personal information and any business using it without permission, or trying to draw it from Big Data, would see their actions ‘backfire’.

“The point is to be spooky and not creepy. If you’re creepy you’ve crossed the line. How do you cross the line? You don’t get permission,” he said.

“Big Data is trying to be creepy: ‘We want to get this information about you, without you knowing. And we want to use it against you.’ That’s going to backfire over time.”

IAG takes a firm line on the ethical use of customer information and will only partner with companies who share this outlook.

The creep factor

Bromley, who has worked in digital leadership roles for the likes of AOL, Blackberry, Telstra and NBNCo, said that companies should aim for ‘anticipatory marketing’ and argued that millennials were quick to ignore or block marketing that didn’t ‘know them’. “It takes a microsecond,” he said.

To achieve this hyper-personalised marketing, however, businesses will need access to an individuals’ data, and that requires permission.

“Moving from Big Data to little data, knowing that knowing everything there is to know about somebody is only possible, at that micro level, with their permission,” he said.

“Anticipatory marketing only happens if you’ve got [an individual’s] digital shadow. If you understand the total hyper-personalised experience for that person. And you’ve got permission to get that. Because what you want to do is avoid the creep factor.

“Because they’re going to own that shadow, they’re going to control who it’s disseminated to, and they’re going to be fickle about it. So buy, trade for it, capture it somehow, but do it with permission. Because if not you’ve crossed the creep line.”