Microsoft's top marketer tossed a juicy hunk of red meat to his kind of people yesterday. While Xbox One isn't selling the stuff Kinect collects from your living room to marketers right out of the box, the capacity is there, and it could be the kind of game-changer that makes ad buyers swoon.
Let's remember that Kinect is no longer mandatory to the Xbox One's operation and neither is a periodic check-in with the Xbox servers, requirements that were walked back under a firestorm of gamer outrage. That said, many users will simply leave both utilities plugged in. And when a publication like Advertising Age—whose audience ain't exactly privacy-concerned hardcore gamers—says "Xbox One can essentially work like TV that watches you, bringing marketers a huge new trove of data," you realize why Microsoft wanted those requirements in the first place.
Mehdi, at the Association of National Advertisters' Masters of Marketing Conference, in Phoenix yesterday, said Microsoft can see whether people are paying attention to ads and evaluate how their bodies respond to them, according to a marketer who attended but asked that his name not be used in AdAge's report.
"It could have a big impact on pricing," he added. AdAge agrees: "If even a fraction of likely Xbox One users could be persuaded to share data, the technology could create the world's largest panel for measuring biometric responses to advertising."
Mehdi told the panel, according to AdAge that "it's early days, but we're starting to put that together in more of a unifying way, and hopefully at some point we can start to offer that to advertisers broadly." He called this "a holy grail in terms of how you understand the consumer in that 360 degrees of their life."
Kinect's ability to distinguish voices in a living room, notice if people are watching the screen or not, and even pick up their heart rate, is well known. Worst-case speculation had it, back in the late spring, that these capabilities could be used for things like tiered pricing in streaming movie rentals. More folks in the room, the more the movie costs.
Instead it seems like Microsoft doesn't plan on just selling eyeballs to advertisers, but their emotional reactions too. Maybe that's why they are not selling the machine without Kinect. Sounds like your extra $100 is going toward putting an uber-Nielsen box in your living room.
[Update 10/7] Two days before Mehdi's appearance at the conference, Microsoft's Albert Penello, a planning and marketing director for Xbox One, took to NeoGAF to say the company was not harvesting user data for sale to advertisers. "NuAds (the console's advertising architecture) by definition is simply interactive advertising done on the platform. Using the functions of the console and Kinect to interact vs. just watching a spot. There's nothing particularly interesting happening here unless you're in the advertising business, and we've done a few on Xbox 360 today."
He went on: "What I think you're asking about is an interview done earlier in the year where someone was talking about how some of the new Xbox One Kinect features could (emphasis his) be used in advertising ... First—nobody is working on that. We have a lot more interesting and pressing things to dedicate time towards. It was an interview done speculatively, and I'm not aware of any active work in this space. Second—if something like that ever happened, you can be sure it wouldn't happen without the user having control over it. Period."
The entirety of his comment may be read here. We've asked a Microsoft representative if the company wishes to elaborate further.
[Update 10/7] A Microsoft representative responded with this statement:
The comments in Ad Age attributed to Yusuf Mehdi were not in relation to Kinect. We do not have plans to target ads or content to you based on any data Kinect collects. We have a long-standing commitment to your privacy and will not target ads to you based on any data Kinect collects unless you choose to allow us to do so. Furthermore, we will give you a clear explanation of what is collected and how it will be used.
Importantly, we do not collect your personal information to share or sell to third parties, and you are fully in control over what personal data is shared. We have strict policies to protect your privacy and these policies will continue to be upheld with our next generation product.
Xbox One's Data Treasure Trove Could Reshape Marketing [Advertising Age]