Economist Special Report
The Pivot to Passive Digital

Ogilvy experts respond to the recent Special Report from The Economist on Advertising and Technology.

Three things, says The Economist, have ushered in the advertising age of “Little Brother” – mobile devices, social networks and programmatic buying. It’s a potent combination of massive, networked reach and individually targeted, dynamically priced ad buying. But there is one thing more, and that is the pivot to passive digital, a shift that is proving to be the most important thing of all.

Since the commercialization of the Internet in the early to mid-1990s, screens have connected consumers with marketers. People have had to actively interact with their screens – first computers and now smart devices – in order to clue marketers into their preferences, behaviors and selections.  The pivot to passive is an on-going shift in technology from screens to sensors as the primary interface. No longer must consumers report information to marketers; sensors detect, report and trigger. What’s required of consumers is diminishing even as sensors learn more and more about them.

For marketers, this means that the critical resource of the future is not flexible manufacturing to produce whatever consumers want, but real-time analytics to calculate a predicted fit based on continuous passive digital data streams. For consumers, this means spending the currency of control to get more of what they want from marketers.

The worry is that marketers will go too far. Hence, The Economist’s breathless headline, Little Brother. But this presumes a level of consumer naiveté rarely seen by marketers. Consumers are smart about shopping. They know how things work. They game it to their advantage. Active digital taught consumers how to manage technology. Passive digital is teaching them how to manage personal data.  Far from overwhelming consumers, the pivot to passive is transforming privacy from an all-or-nothing threat into a negotiable commodity, perhaps the most valuable coin in the currency of control.

Algorithms are the future of marketing. Equations and models tied to passive data streams will automatically optimize content, offers, pricing and communications on the fly. Consumers will benefit from more time and less clutter. Marketers will benefit from more efficiency and less guesswork. The keystone of this future is a passive digital platform that will bring mobile, social and programmatic buying together through a shift from screens to sensors.

– J. Walker Smith,

Executive Chairman, The Futures Company


Click here for The Economist’s Special Report on Advertising and Technology.

Follow commentary on the Economist Report  here.


There is 1 comment

Add yours

Post a new comment