In our new Ad Tech & Beyond series, we explore the biggest trends and developments in the world of ad tech with our host Kevin Joyner, Croud’s Director of Data Solutions. In each episode, he puts the questions that matter to a select panel of experts.
In our second episode, we’re taking an up-to-date view on privacy in the digital marketing industry. Awareness of personal data issues has grown in recent years, but this hasn’t been a one-off event and the effect on our industry continues to evolve. In this episode, we’ll hear from Croud’s UK Managing Director, Emil Bielski, Programmatic Associate Director, Connie del Bono, Programmatic Media Director, Omri Kedem, and Client Strategy Director, Caroline Buckingham.
An industry built on precise, detailed surveillance
Advertising in digital channels offers unbeatable targeting and measurement. That’s been our pitch, anyway, for about 15 years, and it’s been made possible by a level of precision and detail in surveillance that can only be achieved with digital.
For years, online privacy was a relatively niche concern. Our industry regarded massive personal data collection as benign. We made half-baked efforts to offer privacy controls to users, like the ‘Do Not Track’ browser setting. And early European ePrivacy legislation taught us all to ignore the privacy banners on websites.
But in June 2013, Edward Snowden revealed astonishing international surveillance at a massive scale being conducted by the NSA and the GCHQ, with evidence of their joint collaboration with some of the biggest names in tech and social media. It was these revelations that set the ball rolling.
And so here we are in 2020. The awakening that you might say began in 2013 wasn’t a single event, and it isn’t by any means complete. But a very fundamental change in our industry is now properly underway. We’ll be saying goodbye to third-party cookies – which enable cross-site tracking – and so we’re seeing new solutions emerge, for insight and measurement, and audience building. Google is recommending a “privacy-forward” approach for its advertiser clients and is now frequently asserting that privacy-friendly predictions will take over from surveillance-based precision in our industry.
Users in the meantime don’t behave any differently from how they always have. While we all have clearer rationale than ever for our views on privacy, at the same time we just carry on clicking “agree” so we can get to the free stuff as fast as possible. We still behave like we don’t care. One key characteristic of the unprecedented change in our industry is that some new privacy-safe measures do not depend on user action.
There’s quite a bit to consider, about cultural changes, user behaviour, how our industry has changed and where it’s all going.
Part one: Pitching value for customer & users
In part one, we tackle the question of how our approach to pitching digital marketing has changed since privacy awareness and regulations have increased. The demise of the precision era has resulted in a shift in how we create value for our customers and users. There is a certain amount of inevitability that privacy will be front of mind in pitches in the future.
How has privacy changed how we pitch digital marketing?
Part two: The right level of personalisation
Do you ever get the feeling that you are being followed? We can all share experiences online where we see ads for products we have been researching, or even our family and friends have across devices. This level of personalisation can be received really well when done properly by trusted brands, but it can also be unnerving when advertisers hold personal details about them. We discuss the right level of personalisation for the right audience.
Does it matter when marketing is creepy?
Part three: Digital privacy in the eyes of the user
Here we pose the question of whether it matters what users think about digital privacy. As you might expect, the consensus is that what users think is of paramount importance, and privacy should be a central and critical concern for all marketers and media specialists. After all, it’s these users and customers that the industry relies on.
Does it matter what users think about digital privacy?
Part four: Privacy-safe alternatives
We share our thoughts on some of the innovative solutions already available in this privacy-first ecosystem. There are alternatives to third-party cookie tracking, including identity solutions, the use of other advertising data to make targeting decisions, and contextual intelligence. There are tools that also provide the user with greater transparency on how they are being targeted.
What are your favourite privacy-safe ad tech solutions?
Part five: Predicted impacts on the digital industry
Finally we ask our experts to predict what the biggest impacts will be on our industry in the next few years. In many ways, privacy changes will provide a positive user experience with a move away from the sites that contain cluttered advertising where you have to really dig around for the content in an article you are looking for. There will undoubtedly be an impact on the level of personalisation that can be achieved. However, it’s important to note that the user still demands a personalised experience and this change will drive innovation to provide the desired level of engagement with the minimal amount of personal data.
What are the biggest ways our industry will change over the next few years?
There will undoubtedly be an impact on the level of personalisation that can be achieved in the future, but there is some reassurance here that solutions will evolve over time beyond the walled gardens, which will add increasing value and positive experience. It’s important to note that the user still demands a personalised experience provided there is trust and a respectful value exchange for their data.
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