How Far Should Personalization Go?

Consumers crave human moments of discovery, says JWT CEO

"Frictionless sharing" may be all the rage in social media and advertising, but during his Social Media Week keynote Monday morning, JWT CEO David Eastman offered some words of caution: "You need friction to make things human or real." And to a growing extent, he continued, that's what consumers want.

“Consumers are increasingly craving human moments of discovery” that capture serendipity, he noted.

Facebook's massive scale and ability to amass data on its 845 million users, he added, have made it an unrivaled online identity broker. That data gives it the ability to hyper-personalize content and ads, which means both higher returns on investments for media buyers and, ideally, more utility for users. But, Eastman added, too much personalization and too much data driving can leave people wanting more.

A social vocabulary centered around the word "like" also fails to capture the totality of human expression, he noted: "Liking flattens out the troughs and peaks in our emotional landscape. Liking is fine, but I'd like to know what people love and what they really care about. Things that say something about who they really are."

Still, Eastman conceded, tech-powered socializing and connectivity is "creating a renaissance of global innovation."

In a presentation following Eastman's keynote, Ann Mack, JWT's director of trendspotting, picked up on his call for serendipity and highlighted some relevant data points.

According to a recent JWT survey, while 7 out of 10 consumers said having technology tailor information to their preferences is helpful, 8 out of 10 said they'd prefer to see everything unfiltered and then sift through the information on their own. Additionally, 86 percent expressed curiosity as to what is being filtered out of their stream.

To that end, she continued, services like and Grubwithus have built platforms around serendipitous socializing, where humans curate content, and connect over meals and discovering food. To balance personalization with serendipity, she added, brands could give "consumers more refined personal experiences without robbing them of discovery."

Mack also highlighted the growing interest around F-commerce (Facebook commerce) and, more generally, s-commerce (social commerce).

In 2011, Mack said, Booz Allen research indicated that $5 billion in goods were sold via s-commerce. And a JWT survey found that 30 percent of people said they wished they had more opportunities to shop via Facebook. For millenials, the figure was even higher, with 47 percent expressing the same sentiment.

"We've always tapped into our social graphs or social networks in order to get or make recommendations on what to buy, see, do and listen to," Mack said. "It makes sense to layer the social graph over everything."


Publish date: February 13, 2012 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT