Have marketers finally granted people privacy?

marketers data privacy
By Shruthi Chindalur

According to Ofcom, UK households spent on average three hours and 37 minutes online per day in 2020 – an increase of 40 minutes since 2017. There’s also been plenty to occupy our growing screen time this year, from the Tokyo Olympics to Squid Game. But by living more of our lives online, we also share more of ourselves with the websites and apps we use, and their digital partners.

This by-product is something consumers have been somewhat less cognizant of in the past. For years the discussion about how consumers ‘pay’ for the content they enjoy online has circulated in industry magazines and made the occasional news headline, but it’s somehow stayed in the background.

This changed in 2021, with a slew of headlines putting privacy front and center. From the EU’s ruling over British data protection standards to Google’s Privacy Sandbox and Apple’s lucrative tracking updates with iOS 15, privacy is in vogue.

Well-publicized data breaches have also added to the privacy discourse, with the likes of McDonalds and T-Mobile experiencing leaks. The net effect has been a sudden rise in questions over who has access to consumer data and what they are using it for.

This has established an appetite among consumers for more responsible use of the personal data fuelling their digital experiences.

The year of privacy

Criticism has also come from within the industry itself. In 2020, Netflix’s The Social Dilemma become essential viewing during lockdown. Exploring the growing discussion among tech innovators around privacy and the emotional impact of social media, the documentary was viewed in 38 million homes within the first 28 days of its release.

Of course, as marketers, this puts us in a slightly awkward position. Have no doubt: privacy is vital and good marketing should never be intrusive, but data plays a central part of today’s marketing journey. When we remove data from the equation we are essentially going in blind. This changes the entire commerce journey. When marketers don’t know who they are dealing with, they can’t share personalised content, can’t optimise the user experience and can’t take any learnings from the consumer journey. Measurement is likely to be fragmented and inaccurate.

Before you break out the world’s smallest violin for us, I’m not asking for sympathy – just understanding. A balance needs to be struck. There is value in marketing for consumers, too: it is a critical component for digital economies and funds people’s access to a wide diversity of content. Without online marketing, we’d lose some of our most trustworthy news outlets, most innovative blogs and our favourite content creators.

And, of course, the less data in the hands of marketers, the more consumers are forced to sift through a multitude of irrelevant, poorly targeted and badly timed ads.

With great power comes great responsibility

So as we look ahead to the next evolution of responsible addressable advertising, it is important to understand how marketers can take the lead in ensuring their messages resonate with the audiences they are trying to engage, while still respecting people’s important privacy rights.

It’s why companies like Apple are in such a prime position as customer gatekeepers – the ease of which they can work with consumers to ask for their preferences makes them an important force to be reckoned with.

What they have, and what all marketers are really looking for, is ‘first-party’ data – the opportunity to take consented insight directly from your customers. As well as describing existing customers and visitors to your digital properties, first-party data can also help you communicate with prospects and attract new customers.

Clearly first-party data is valuable. Though – in a twist of irony – few are using it to its full potential. According to eMarketer, only 6% of marketers are currently “fully utilising” their first-party data, while a whopping 78% are only utilising their first-party data “moderately”, “barely” or “not at all”.

Why go to all the effort of collecting and securing this valuable data if you’re not going to use it? Clearly some help is needed.

Let’s take the retail environment as an example. Brands can positively affect consumer behaviour by unlocking the first-party data held by retailers. With the depth of understanding these insights offer, they can gain more control with targeting across the open web.

Boots Media Group recently announced the launch of Audience 360, marking the first retailer-owned media opportunity that encourages off-site activation using retailer first-party data.

Better outcomes through collaboration

Using retailer and brand data to illuminate the total consumer journey and then activating media across online and even physical environments is an extremely powerful proposition.

The omnichannel approach works by allowing organisations the opportunity to use their CRM data beyond the traditional use cases of sending newsletters or blanket offers. Using data that users have actively provided, through loyalty cards for example, can help push online buyers into physical shops (and vice versa) through customised offers.

While it may be a daunting task, brands benefiting from closed-loop, data-driven marketing platforms can both generate better outcomes, as well as ensure the responsible use of data in delivering, optimising and measuring their media.

Data privacy is also driving the growing community of publishers, ad tech and global brands that are working through the Partnership for Responsible Media (PRAM), IAB and Prebid to make the next evolution of responsible addressable identifiers a reality.

By ensuring we have more reliable and consistent information exchanges across the open digital markets, this reduces media waste and enables more money to flow to the publishers that people regularly use.

Doing what is right

Ultimately, consumers have a right to increased transparency and accountability, and it’s up to digital marketers to deliver this in a way that doesn’t overwhelm them with choices or confuse them with endless jargon.

Access to first-party data is a privilege and a one that is not always readily available for every organisation. For brands, the first-party data you have is precious; this means ensuring that you not only get the best outcomes from it internally, but that you also work with partners that can help you enrich, engage and correctly measure your outcomes.

This, and only this, can put in place a solid foundation for your delivery of responsible, addressable advertising.

Shruthi Chindalur is Executive Managing Director EMEA at Criteo

Source: Campaign U.K.

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