Opinion

Dear brands, I think we need to talk about data

The Works' Tomas Haffenden writes a heartfelt open letter to those no-so-special brands in his life.

Dear Brand,

I think if we want a future together we need to talk about my data because currently it is just not working any more.

You seem to be focused so intently on capturing as much of me as you can, that you have lost sight on why you are doing it. Do you not want to make me happy?

I think what hurts the most is the way you can’t let things go. I searched for ‘sexy elf’ once, three years ago, but not a week goes by without yet another banner ad popping up to humiliate me.

Look, maybe I am partly to blame.

I know that it must be hard to deal with my multiple online personas. LinkedIn-me, Facebook-me and Insta-me could not be more polarising, and that can’t be easy. But it is because of your insistence on using third-party data that has got us here.

Collecting every rumour you hear about me online and trying to somehow piece together the full picture is madness. I am so much more than a collection of search terms. How do you know I haven’t already got the thing I was searching for?

It is not that I mind hearing your suggestions, and when you get it right, it feels like there is still a chance for us. But you are just so hit and miss. I do not need to be reminded that I got a takeaway last night with a stream of guilt-inducing pizza-based content.

I know GDPR and California Consumer Privacy Act have been a real knock to you, but it has been a long time coming. All that third party data is how we got into this mess.

I’ll admit it, I’m selfish. I want to feel like I am the only one that matters to you. That you know me better than any of the other brands. But you have to understand that if you want me to feel that, it is going to take real change.

First I need you to forget everything you thought you knew about me. Stop trying to consolidate conflicting data you have on me and wipe the slate clean. From now on it has to be zero-party data, directly from me.

If you let me in and give me control of what I’m willing to share, imagine how close it could make us. Imagine how relevant you would become if the data you have is clean and up to date.

I can hear what you are thinking. That I don’t really know what I want, and that all data is relevant data, and maybe you are right. But I am no longer willing to be in a relationship like that. We need to be honest and transparent. Stop referring to your algorithms and just ask me.

I don’t want this to be over, but you are not my only option. Private browsing, VPNs and ad-blockers are only a click away. If you are not willing to change, you’ll lose me forever.

Things are changing, you must see that.

Yours maybe,

Tomas xxx

Tomas Haffenden is a digital producer at The Works.

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