Myself and my hubby have been watching a lot of Netflix since the UK/Irish launch a few weeks ago. I have to chuckle when I see what Netflix recommends for us based on what we have watched already – if you are not familiar, Netflix creates a “recommended” stream of content based on what you watch most often, and what you have rated with a high star rating. It causes amusing combinations when, in our case, we are a couple with diverse viewing tastes. Our stream combines classic B&W movies (my taste) with zombie horror flicks (hubby’s) and great TV shows like Arrested Development (the middle ground). We watch through our trusty Xbox, and like alot of our friends, find ourselves consuming our viewing content through streaming services like Netflix and Youtube via media devices.
The thread of personalisation is a strong one – popping up on and offline. Many in the advertising and media industries tip personalisation as the theme of 2012 – having been moving in this direction for the past few years. Online, we need only look as far as Google and their recent introduction of Search Plus Your World – making your Google experience very close and personal. The idea behind Search Plus Your World is to make each search relevant to that users’ specific interests online – for example, including content from the users’ own Picasso album when searching for images or showing +1 recommendations on Google display ads by friends in the user’s Google circle. From a marketers point of view, it brings home the importance of Google+ and its prominence in search results (both when the user is logged in to their Google account, and when they are searching for branded terms). So let’s say, the social network we loved to ignore is now standing up and taking names. Google+ needs to be thought of as part of any standard online marketing plan – just as we thought we were getting our chops around established social media citations in search (i.e. from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) we now have Google+ to contend with. The Google stance screams “Ignore it at your peril search marketers!”
If this sits a little uneasily with you then you are not alone. A report published on eMarketer by AYTM.com has indicated that approx. half of US users surveyed are more comfortable with standard, non-personalised search results – that is, 45.4% of respondents feel that users should all see the same results when they search for a term. That’s a powerful indication of how general internet users feel about personalised search. When asked specifically about Google+ many users are ambivilant about the social network – just 19.3% of users have a Google+ account, a further 20.3% have one but don’t use it (sound familiar?). In fact 19.5% of users don’t know what Google+ is! Looks like Google may have a long way to go yet to win the hearts and minds of the general internet user.
But how about personalisation offline? The BBC has just announced that they are working on “perceptive media” in their programme development. Perceptive media is basically personalisation of your viewing experience. So, the BBC may send a standard digital signal containing the programming content but when it gets to your set-top box, it is processed and personalised to appeal to you specifically.
So basically, you could be watching an episode of Eastenders – and when Ian Beal walks into “The Caf”, you will hear a track from one of your favourite bands playing in the background. Maybe you are watching an episode of Dr. who, and a photograph on the wall of the Tardis contains a snap from your last holiday (although why Dr. Who has a thing for you in your bestest pair of budgie smugglers is beyond us…).
What do we think about that? Is it good, is it bad? This type of technology is not brand new – it can be seen (and has been seen) via in-game advertising, and you can certainly see the appeal from an advertisers point of view. When (or if) implemented, it is likely to be done in a very subtle way, so that it would not detract from any viewing pleasure. The BBC are still at an experimental stage.
Is this all a little too close to subliminal advertising for some?
Everyone likes to be seen as an individual – we style our hair a certain way, we get different, coloured phone covers, we want to have the rarest runners or most coveted vintage handbag. We like to be different. So personalisation of our online (and offline) experiences makes sense. When that personalisation comes at the cost of your (perceived) online security and comfort, or having a say in how you are marketed to in your own home, then that becomes a more grey issue.
For now, we are happy to watch what Netflix recommends for us – we have the off button to hand if we don’t!