'Not f***ing OK' - Dave Gorman on over-personalised invasive advertising

Comedian Dave Gorman warned marketers at Advertising Week that over-personalised ads run the risk of intrusively overstepping the mark.

Dave Gorman: the comedian onstage at Advertising Week in a session on personalisation
Dave Gorman: the comedian onstage at Advertising Week in a session on personalisation

Gorman was talking to delegates during a session on personalisation, during which he was joined onstage by Mike Florence, head of planning at PHD.

While Florence said that "nowadays, especially in the online space, brands are using personalisation to get closer to people", Gorman was less reverent about marketing, admitting he "often had a pop about advertising".

"I hold advertising up to be ridiculed, like lots of other aspects of life," he said, singling out an ad for lip gloss, which featured specious research to back up its claims, using a sample size (47% of 34 women) which he likened to the survey results from gameshow 'Family Fortunes'.

Gorman discussed his collaboration with PHD in promoting Dave series 'Modern Life is Goodish', when he and the agency used social media to target people in a deliberately clumsy manner, with less-than-subtle references to brands such as Frijj.

"There are lots of ways in which the digital world does things that you wouldn’t accept face-to-face," Gorman said.

He gave an example of his recent experience of ordering a pizza online. When he went to the check-out section of the site, a batch of cookies costing 99p had automatically been added to his cart.

"You would not accept that in the real world," he said. "Like it’s OK. It’s not f*cking OK. It’s a great example of doing things just because you can."

Meanwhile, Florence gave advice on what constitutes acceptable behaviour.

He outlined seven rules for creating successful personalised campaigns. "There are rules that can help brands be more memorable," he said. "Some brands are more charismatic, high interest, but low sensitivity brands like in the travel sector...

"Personalisation can give lower interest categories more charisma. You can go further than you think, especially if it’s a low interest category."

But he warned that while "being a bit creepy is acceptable", being a total creep through extreme personalisation is not. "You’re slipping into ‘uncanny valley’ - it’s what happens when machines try to behave like humans."

7 Rules of personalisation

  1. Make a confident, direct approach - ensure your audience recognises what you’re saying

  2. Always be useful - if you can’t help, then walk away

  3. Context matters to the power of three - the medium is really important

  4. Is your audience under 35? It if is, personalise. They are 44% more likely than over 35s to respond positively. But get it wrong at your peril

  5. Always ensure there’s a human involved

  6. Take time to set boundaries.

  7. Give yourself time out before send-out.

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