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Back to the Future of Society

· Aitarget,Web Summit,Society

As 2017 draws to a close, we’re about to flip the calendar and start a new year-long business marathon. How are you feeling? At Aitarget we’re excited about what we’ve learned and shared in 2017. Throughout the year our team attended the biggest digital marketing and IT conferences around the world, including the iconic Web Summit in Portugal in November.

We’ve been collecting and analysing key insights to share with you. Following on from our previous features dedicated to technological and marketing trends, our last issue of this series and our final feature of 2017 is devoted to modern society. Here we outline the biggest social concerns addressed this year and show how they can help businesses build a “meaningful relationship with communities and bring the world closer together,” as advocated Zuck Almighty.

Evgenia Bychkova, Senior Mobile & Performance Manager at Aitarget, listened to the sensitive and eye-opening speech at this year’s Web Summit: “Web Summit 2017 hosted multiple discussions of a variety of topics. One of the most memorable to me was “Who defines gender?”, hosted by Caitlyn Jenner, TV personality and advocate of transgender rights.”

Bychkova notes that Ms Jenner said there should be “no more secrets, because that’s the only way to go through life”, before claiming that the T in LGBTQ+ is by far the most misunderstood in terms of both understanding issues and funding.

"She compared being a transgender to being a left-handed person: ‘What if society says you have to learn to write with your right hand? As a young person you will just struggle as it’s not as comfortable as to do it with the left hand. Finally you come to the point in your life when you say, I am left handed. All of a sudden you start writing with your left hand and the words flow out of your head better, because that’s who you are’. This comparison touched me deeply.”

Promoting understanding of different people’s identities and bringing it to public at the world’s biggest digital conference seems natural nowadays. However, at the end of the past century it would be completely unimaginable in an advertising context. Remember, for example, the historic 1995 Diesel ad by David LaChapelle featuring a gay sailor couple kissing. At the height of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, the ad created shockwaves and was labelled as utterly provocative around the globe. A similar campaign by the same brand today receives a less hostile response, even though it may still called “provocative”. Our society is gradually becoming more educated and perceptive.

Diesel advertisement by David LaChapelle. Source:

As part of the increasing Diversity and Inclusion discussion, more businesses put their efforts into supporting marginalised communities. Facebook recently published the case of “Cupcake Royale”. The bakery announced their “The Gay” cupcake on Facebook and gathered huge attention and an enormous amount of orders in the US. Additionally, a dollar from every cupcake sold went to the​ It Gets Better Project, an organisation dedicated to uplifting, empowering, and connecting LGBTQ+ youth around the world. For advertisers looking for personalised ads this case is a great example of well-executed targeting: it hits the audience with two distinct and disjoint interests (pastries and LGBTQ+). The ads tailored for a very particular target audience are more appropriate for social channels and more likely to win the auction.

Gender roles, or, rather, the stereotypical portrayal of gender roles, has also been generating lots of discussion in the advertising world throughout the year. UK’s Advertising Standards Authority are to ban ads that feature stereotypical gender roles, so advertisers should shy away from depicting, for instance, only women busy with household tasks. Non-specific gender product should be shown in a neutral context. In the shadow of sexual misconduct allegations against various celebrities, women’s bodies can no longer be naked bait. Otherwise the performance risks creating revulsion in its audience - as happened to the latest Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show that was coined “hopelessly out of date”.

The concept of Diversity and Inclusion also includes the fight for rights of racial minorities, and advertising should move towards positive representation of non-white populations. Dove had to apologise for their body lotion ad showing a black model turning into a white one, whereas the powerful Procter & Gamble’s “The Talk” ad campaign teaching about racial bias is a good example of positive movement.

A more tolerant society is a pressing need for a world of freedom and equality, fairness and justice. There have been scandals and controversies surrounding Donald Trump’s presidency, including the shadow of an investigation into Russian involvement in his election. This issue was hotly debated at Web Summit and triggered Facebook to update their advertising principles and make advertisements on the platform more transparent.

Facebook makes a great effort to help build a safer community online and offline, including its commitment to mental health support and suicide prevention tools (integrated prevention tools to help people in real time on Facebook Live, Live chat support from crisis support organisations through Messenger, and streamlined reporting for suicide, assisted by AI). Facebook has been improving enforcement and promoting diversity by updating ad policies to forbid any form of discrimination, launching new programs about having a diverse hiring approach, managing unconscious bias, and using Facebook University to train and mentor underrepresented minorities, and much more.

Facebook has also been addressing issues of ‘Revenge Porn’. According to Facebook, a study of US victims of non-consensual intimate images showed that 93% of victims suffer from significant emotional distress and 82% report significant impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of their life. In the wake of the Revenge Porn issues, Facebook introduced tools to help people when their intimate images are shared without their permission on Facebook-owned platforms by adding a “Report” link, specially trained representatives from their Community Operations team, photo-matching technologies, and partnering with safety organisations to offer resources and support to victims.

Facebook’s goodwill is commendable. However its attention can be so penetrating that it was blamed for shadowing. At the Web Summit the question was raised of whether or not Facebook is using people’s device microphone to listen in to real life conversation and show relevant ads, as has been constantly rumored.

Daria Vladimirova, our Account Manager, saw this addressed during Facebook's Stan Chudnovsky conversation with CNNMoney's Laurie Segall at the conference.

"It was once again denied that Facebook uses people’s device microphone to eavesdrop on real-life conversations or utilises the context of their text messages to target ads.

Stan Chudnovsky explained that, given the amount of content on the platforms and the extent of user activity, it is statistically bound to happen at some point that an ad coincides with a recent conversation. When it does, the human bias is to jump to the simplest explanation that corporations are listening in, rather than going through the complicated topic of statistical probability.”

To all appearances Facebook cares about people’s privacy, and so should intelligent marketers - if they aim for long-term relationships with loyal customers. Marketers should embrace moves towards a more diverse and equal modern society and be respectful to each individual.


Meticulous readers have probably noticed that we haven’t mentioned bitcoins in our series of digital world trends. While the hype over the subject has intensified this year (even Stripe, the world’s most valuable private financial technology company, started accepting payments in bitcoins), we do not see them as relevant for social media advertisers. “So far”, because rethinking Stephen Hawking’s opening speech at this year’s Web Summit, “we just don’t know yet”.

Next year promises to be a compelling period in the digital advertising world. Technology will be advancing, society will be evolving. We believe that the most important trend of 2018 social media marketing should be affinity with users through a timely personal touch and long-term mutual respect, because however groundbreaking our scientific achievements are, AI cannot yet induce empathy.

Happy New Year!

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