Two Sides of the Same Coin: Ethical Challenges in Individualized Marketing

Signe Mathilde Pedersen

Student thesis: Master thesis


The purpose of this study is to take a closer look at ethical issues regarding individual targeted marketing. The access to big data has made it possible to choose specific target segments based on their digital behavior. But the emergens of trackable data has also led to some new ethical dilemmas. Therefore, the research question of this paper is; Which ethical challenges may exist regarding individualized marketing? The study is based on an explorative investigation design that involves a single case. The study is based on the case where providers of quick loans use their digital ads to affect economically socially disadvantaged. In order to answer the research question, three hypotheses have been established. The first hypothesis had the purpose of investigate; how companies in general uses individualized ads on digital media such as Google and Facebook. The second hypothesis included the specific case and had the purpose to find out; whether quick loan providers use individualized marketing in order to target social disadvantaged. Based on the last hypothesis, this study wanted to find out; whether quick loan providers override ethical aspects to make a profit. The three hypotheses are being answered based on an abductive approach, combining theory and empirical data. The analysis shows that all kind of companies within all line of industries uses targeted marketing. The ads are to a large extent customized based on the individual consumers digital behavior and the ads can affect the decision-making process in the company’s favor. Secondly the analysis shows that the targeted segment of quick loan providers can be defined as socially disadvantaged and the loan providers are targeting this segment with ads, alluring with cheap and fast loans. This finding is the base of the study’s ethical discussion. The ethical analysis found out that the ethical judgement largely depends on the eyes that see. In general, you can argue for the quick loan providers’ actions to be both ethical wrong and right. However, most of the findings are pointing towards the conclusion that the act is ethical wrong, since the means to the end is unethical. The main purpose of this study is not to provide general knowledge in order to manufacture new theory, but instead to achieve an in-depth insight into the connection between the specific case and its context. However, the produced practice knowledge within the problem area, can be useful for other ethical analysis in the future.

EducationsMSc in Business Administration and Organizational Communication, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages84