With 250 Million people now with ad blockers, potentially draconian EU data privacy legislation coming on-stream and a general distrust of personal data being hacked, a new world is emerging. In this world, advertisers like Unilever are looking to reward consumers directly for the right to interact with them, disintermediating traditional media platforms like Facebook.

As I wrote late last year, Unilever, one of the world’s biggest advertisers, says they are expecting this new world to come sooner than you think. Here’s what Unilever’s vice president of people data and marketing analytics Shawn O’Neil had to say:

“I’m envious of the data Facebook has, and even more so of Google… If the customer starts to own the data then all of a sudden we’ve levelled the playing field amongst all players… because when an individual owns it, and begins to monetise it for their own gain, then it changes the way in which we have access to it as an organisation.”

Remember the old adage: “If you aren’t paying for it, then you’re not the customer: you’re the product.” Consumers are waking up to the fact that their data is being sold every day.

At Boston Ventures we agree a titanic shift is emerging, with consumers becoming the eventual winners. We are also seeing a number of emerging companies like digi.me positioning to be the enablers of this “Me-2-B economy”.  So, if advertisers take this different route to consumers – and consumers actually get paid for the trouble – would ad-supported Facebook have to consider a paid service? What if a country adopted this model and allowed its population to own and control access to their individual data and monetise as they themselves saw fit? What is the impact of cross border/cross-continent use of the data and where does that leave the data sovereignty discussion? We will be tracking these developments and more so that we are prepared if, as industry pundits Ctrl-Shift proclaim, 2016 is the year for Personal information Management Services (PIMS) to take off.

Two interesting articles on the topic for further reading are presented below:

“Brands think the Me 2 B Economy will level the playing field with ad tech’s walled gardens”

“Unilever shifts focus to customer-owned data in bid to boost trust”