The reason that so many people have adblockers installed is beause they’re not intending to buy something when it appears alongside them. People click on ads when they are searching at a far higher rate than when little squares crop up annoyingly alongside your reading. Its a difficult balance. After all, what would be most efficient would be if you were only contacted when you wanted something, both in saving advertisers and businesses time and only contacting people who are actively looking for something. People actively looking for a product are often referred to as an ‘in-market audience’ and why would you want to be pushed in in the way that online advertising aggressively does?
Tom Fishburne’s cartoon above points to an interesting new future. As our devices become more and more interconnected, companies are going to gather more data about when they are going to fail, and when contracts are going to expire. Fishburne satirises the desperate thirst for more data on the part of the marketer, where a fire extinguisher (perhaps delivered by a drone) is offered to you before you even realise that you need it. Explaining to people that they would do well to do something isn’t always evil. After all, many people need to repair floorboards, update their software, and do thousands of other tasks and do need prompting to do so. The conscious intent of a customer is not itself the only legitimate prompting to acquire a product, but incessant noise isn’t helpful either. So what are the possibilities that await us?
1 A culture of built to fail and a sinister alliance between operations and marketing
To a limited extent this already happens. There’s already a lot of data out there for marketers to try to estimate when your dishwasher is going to fail, your phone battery power is going to go down, and with enough investigation it might even be possible to work out when your phone contract ends. But the IoT could (if you sign away your device’s communication permissions too quickly) enable this at a much faster level. Effectively, companies could build products timed to fail on a particular date and time their marketing for your replacement mere weeks before. Companies could effectively form cartels, working to retain their user bases by knowing exactly when you need a replacement. They could also form proprietary IoT systems, so that only they would know when you need the new thing.
2 An open auction system
Imagine if everyone knew when your phone contract was up, and they all bid for your services at the same time. This already happens but again it would happen at a far quicker rate. Companies would compete for ever slimming margins, and those that currently retain users on high tariffs would be made to offer existing customers something closer to the new customer deals.
3 Regulations about your desired replacement rate
Although I don’t imagine this happening any time soon, it would be ideal if you could configure your tolerance level for a certain amount of failure. We already have ‘frequency capping’ so that marketers don’t pester you although not enough use it. You could very easily configure your system to say, ‘I’m not interested, don’t contact me until the device is non-functional, not just sub-optimal’.
The degree of control among corporations, governments and regulatory frameworks, and customers is going to be very intense over the next few years, and some markets are going to have better regulations than others. Keep a very careful idea of what you’re signing away and remember the perils of single-sign on. But its not all bleak. After all, it would be pretty great if you weren’t pestered because marketers knew you were nowhere near being ‘in-market’.