By using a variety of creative and scientific methods to change behaviour, we can sometimes walk a fine line between good and evil. Add data to the mix, and the line gets blurred even further. To some extent, it is about regulation lagging behind, but more insidiously it is our digital addiction that sees us happily handing over our data without much protection. I paraphrase David Ogivily when I say advertising does not set the standard, it reflects the mores of society.
At its heart advertising, like all our relationships, comes down to reciprocity. The practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit.
The reason we should all be concerned about Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook data is that it broke that fair-trade agreement. In exchange for the seamless, easy and free use of digital platforms, we’ve become Guinea Pigs in a Silicon Valley experiment, trading not only our data but narrowing our culture and attention spans.
As with the last big experiment, the industrial revolution, which took the best part of a century to complete, this digital age too will need some time to settle. It is only in its infancy, and I suspect we have some time yet to separate the wheat from the chaff and to establish how we will interact with machine learning.
If the digital world is shrinking culture and increasing conformism, the humble Out of Home (OOH) advertisement can be heralded as a bastion of free speech. It democratises information – anyone in any given place at any given time can see one message and share their reaction to it. This is illustrated beautifully in my favourite film this season, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which uses the simplicity and power of OOH advertising to make a difference.
Revolutions come and go, but what remains constant is our humanity. This weekend we will break bread and drink wine with our family and friends, just as JC did thousands of years ago. It is here in the real world, with all our senses on, that moments are genuinely shared, warts and all.
This Easter keep it simple, real and be safe, while you eat, drink, and be merry. And don’t forget to look up because that’s when it happens.