STRATEGY | The Dangers & Opportunities of the Personal Cybersphere

Cover - The Personal Cybersphere - Barcelona Virtual -
The Always-On Customer has arrived. Now that she’s here, we are seeing the fulfillment of early prophecies about dangers and opportunities related to the 21st-Century Consumer.
One such “prophecy” is the model of the “Personal Cybersphere”. Developed by Paul Fleming in 2001 to explain Gen Xers’ initial resistance to digital campaigns, its importance has only grown with the emergence of Millennials and Gen Z consumers. This invisible, “protective” shield --  made up of four successive levels (the “4 Rs”) -- envelops your customers, blocking your Marketing messages. Destroying them, too, for they are never seen.
In this post, you’ll learn what these 4 Rs are,
and we’ll even reveal the “secret password” to help you get started!
In early 2001, Paul and his team detected incipient resistance to Digital Marketing and Online Advertising campaigns by what Carol Samms first called “The First Digital Generation”. These initial “surfers” didn’t suffer the same amount of “Infotoxication” (Alfons Cornella) as we do today; nevertheless, they did begin to feel the stress and started to filter out information.
As a result, Paul developed the “Personal Cybersphere” as a way to explain diminishing returns in some of the first digital campaigns, along with solutions to optimise them. The 4 consecutive “Rs” of Recognition, Response, Respect and Relationship would guide the creative strategy of Barcelona Virtual from then on.
In September of 2001,  he published further reflections about the Cybersphere in the Spanish trade magazine CONTROL in an article titled  “La Ciberesfera, una teoría en plena expansión: la sociología, así como la publicidad, avala una nueva tesis sobre la Generación Digital”*.  He developed the model in more detail over the years following, which was later adopted in articles about the Digital Generation by the Spanish government’s Instituto de la Juventud, INJUVE.

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In a series of posts here on the blog, we will examine each of the “4 Rs” separately and in detail. Our mission: to help you craft creative and effective communication with Millennials, Gen Y … and beyond!
Seeing the growing importance of the Personal Cybersphere,
we presented the model in Antwerp, Belgium as part of Barcelona Virtual's participation in the 2015 Eurobest Festival 

Key Points 

  • Developed by Paul Fleming, founder of Barcelona Virtual, in 2001
  • An invisible, protective shield that blocks your digital Marketing and Advertising
  • Made up of 4 successive levels of Recognition, Response, Respect and Relationship
  • The password for initial entry: “Relevant Relationships” with your customers

Read the entire series:

Introduction · R1: Recognition · R2: Response · R3: Respect · R4: Relationship

Download the Eurobest presentation:
Free download of Paul Fleming's speech at Eurobest 2015 in Antwerp, Belgium


Published on this blog on 11 January 2016


  • 04 November 2019
  • 26-28 June 2023
* “The Cybersphere, A Theory in Full Expanision:
Sociology, As Well As Advertising, Validates a New Thesis about the Digital Generation”. CONTROL, September 2001.

"The Personal Cybersphere" and "The 4 Rs" are  © Copyright Paul W. Fleming.

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