As if life isn't hard enough for radio in an increasingly digital world, along comes GM, sort-of floating the prospect of tracking drivers and hitting them with personalized advertising, just like the digital kids do in the commercial online world. Or so suggests Why Did GM Track Radio Listening Habits of 90,000 Drivers? in RadioInk. It begins with this:
It’s all about the data. Last week at The Radio Show in Orlando, a lot of time was dedicated to data and what radio stations can do with it to generate more revenue. General Motors has gotten into the data collection business and the automotive giant is using radio as a way to collect it
GM conducted a three-month test using in-car Wi-Fi, tracking the habits of drivers. The goal was to explore whether there’s a relationship between what drivers listen to and what they buy. A GM spokesman also tells The Detroit Free Press that the data from this study could also help GM develop a better way to measure radio listenership, something advertisers would love to get their hands on, so they could target their ads.
My response in the comments below:
It's not "all about the data." It's about preserving the sweetly private experience radio has always given the drivers and passengers in cars. GM is nuts to sacrifice that for the unholy grail of "relevant" and "interest based" advertising aimed by spyware hidden in dashboards
The biggest advantage of radio advertising over the kind people hate on their computers and mobile devices is that radio's advertising is NOT personalized and NOT based on tracking people like marked animals. By not doing that, radio is perfect for making and sustaining brands.
Perhaps a $trillion or more has been spent so far on tracking-based advertising, and not one single brand known to the world has been made by it. That's because tracking-based advertising isn't really advertising. It's digital junk mail, operating on the same moral and economic model as spam.
Countless brands have been made by radio advertising. I may never get insurance from Geico, but I sure as hell know "fifteen minutes will save you fifteen percent" with them. I know Geico, Progressive and ZipRecruiter bring me the sports shows I like. I also can't help appreciating that brands are sponsors.
Tracking-based advertising isn't interested in sponsorship. Its interested in using whatever opportunity it can to get personal with consumers, wherever they happen to be. Most of the money spent also goes to intermediaries, not the station or program itself. That's another way brand advertising is more efficient.
Ad blocking took off in the digital world, becoming the biggest boycott in human history (1.7 billion worldwide at last count), exactly when the tracking-based advertising business (led by the IAB—the Interactive Advertising Bureau, its trade association) decided not just to ignore polite Do Not Track requests, but to mock and dismiss those requests with a smear campaign against its main advocate: Mozilla and its Firefox browser. (Details here.)
Please, radio: be proud of your advantages over pure digital advertising media: that you're perfect for brands, sponsorship, and listeners who appreciate what both make possible.