Instant panic: Telenet announces personalization on digital TV!

telenet advertising

Telenet, a telco provider in Belgium, recently announced that it would start showing personalized ads via digital television. This personalization would depend on personal data, your Telenet products and services, and your broadcast behavior (meaning, the content that you watch on your digital television).

telenet logoImmediately upon Telenet‘s announcement, there was some frustration and panic in the media and in the political atmospheres. “This is clearly a breach of privacy!” was the most common reaction. Federal State Secretary Philippe De Backer – who is responsible for all things Privacy – says that it is not possible that Telenet‘s customers would give away their privacy without giving permission for it.

24 hours after this little media storm, Telenet communicated to its customers – in a clear and open way – the goal of their marketing automation efforts. Within that email communication, Telenet shared its privacy regulations (this is openly available on their public web site) and their ‘data promise’. This ‘promise’ is a funny (up to you to decide) video that tries to explain – in common language – how Telenet wants to apply marketing automation to make your life better. It’s not only about ad targeting, it’s also about providing a better service related to the products and services that the customers have at Telenet. And this should indeed be the goal of marketing automation: make the life of your customers better!

The age of personalization

The goal of personalization is not to be intrusive and definitely not to give the feeling to your customers that you are invading their privacy.

What Telenet applies now through the digital television channel is not new. I was actually surprised that it took so long before they applied this on digital television. As a side note, Proximus, the number 1 telco provider in Belgium, already announced that a pilot of this form of personalization will start in September.

A lot of companies already apply personalization strategies and techniques on their other digital marketing and corporate channels (such as website, Adwords, email, Facebook, etc). Based on historical visits, content and campaign engagement, geolocation, usage of a device, and more, the visitor might get a personalized experience. Did you ever click on a banner of Zalando? Then you probably know that they follow you everywhere on the internet… This kind of (digital) (re)marketing strategies have become a commodity.

Every site that makes use of cookies to keep track of its visitors need to inform the user about this, explain the purpose of these cookies and give the opportunity to the visitor at all time to opt-out (= erase existing cookies and not allowing future cookies).


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Transparency and consent are key

The State Secretary Philippe De Backer is absolutely correct when he says that ‘silence is not equal to consent’ and maybe Telenet should have been a bit more transparent when they shared their plans about content targeting. Now you might get the impression that they didn’t expect all these negative reactions and quickly launched a campaign to prevent more damage.

In any case, Telenet makes a clear statement that no personal data will be shared or sold to any third party company and that the customer can decide at any time what data to share with Telenet. This message should be displayed clearly on the television screen at the start of a new ‘broadcast’ session or on a regular basis.

Data privacy is key and I agree that regulations should become more strict and clear. Companies should act very carefully with customer data, but when data is used to help the customer or visitor to reach their goal and make their life better, I am in favor. 

By the way, Telenet uses the Adobe Marketing Cloud suite to make this marketing automation strategy happen: Adobe Analytics, Adobe Audience Manager and Adobe Target. (You can check that yourself using the Ghostery tools.)


  • Kim Asselman says:

    To what degree will the current privacy regulation be impacted by the new EU GDPR ?

  • Juliana Jardelino says:

    Dear Kim,

    Thank you for your comment.
    We can mention several points as the main impacted ones:
    – the responsibility to implement organizational and technical measures for both data controller and data processors (before, this task was for the data controller).
    – the deadline to report in case of a data breach.
    – the mandatory presence of a Data Protection Officer.
    – the value of the fines, in the case of non-compliance with the regulation.
    Of course, there’s also a new set of responsibilities and obligations. That’s why companies around Europe got a 2-year deadline to adapt their businesses to the new regulation.

    Let us know if you have further questions.

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