Knowing "Creepy" When you See it

Agencies and a few brave clients converged on OMMA Social in San Francisco earlier this week. The most debated panel was about “Personal CPM” (a term championed by Charlene Li back in 2007).

In short, personal CPM reflects each person’s value as a publisher of content with influence. Everyone will develop their own number which defines their worth to an advertiser or a marketer. Accordingly, companies will market through high-CPM individuals rather than market to the unwashed masses directly.


The prolific David Berkowitz raised the creepiness issue. Is marketing through someone and piggybacking on their personal brands somehow creepier than direct messages?
Maybe to me the real issue is that things we do offline constantly seem creepier when they’re brought online. Marketers sell through the credibility of other people in other media all the time: from celebrity endorsements (Boomers can buy Vuitton if Keith Richards does) to product placements (Ford’s a lot cooler when Will Smith is driving). One of the panelists mentioned that he was happy to hand over his grocery store card and embedded personal info to save a buck and, presumably, does not worry about the invisible transactions that may or may not occur later that day (like their correlating his love for cinnamon with a cinnamon cereal promo, or, more nefariously, selling his love for Ho-Hos and cigarettes to a health insurer.)
Online, these brand piggybacks on people’s credibility are more visible in a new medium where authenticity is still valued. Everyone’s creep factor will be different on this one, and the murky definition of creepy leaves us with Justice Potter Stewart, who famously said of obscenity: I know it when I see it.
Photo credit: Lara604

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