Data Danger - The risks of data-fuelled marketing

A PPI company has been hauled over the coals, unusually not for plaguing someone with unwanted calls, but with addressing a mailshot meant for Mr Alf Skelton to Mr Dick Head. It's the stuff of DM legend, much like the famous BA loyalty mailing from the 90s that was addressed to Mr Rich Bastard.


Whilst examples such as these never fail to raise a smile, there is a much darker side to them. Expletives, misnomers and poor salutations can cause great distress to recipients. For instance the Irish Water bills received by a widow addressed to her late husband who tragically died from a brain tumour in his 30s, with the initials RIP next to his name.


Data is a powerful entity and as big data becomes more prevalent, it is getting more so. However, it can only ever be as good as its underlying values. It is not human and therefore nuances can be easily missed. As marketing becomes more data oriented it is a problem that is impacting many channels, programmatic buying and social media advertising being two common victims. A particularly tasteless example of data driven contextual ATB getting it wrong was an ad for a grill company promising better BBQ results being served to a web page containing an article about a couple in court for barbecuing the remains of a child they had murdered.


The morale of the story of course is to put stringent procedures into place to stop such practices from occurring. Data screening and suppression are both cost effective and necessary ways for direct marketers to reduce the brand damage associated with mistargeted mailings.