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Consumer trust: the real risk


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March 27, 2018 | 5 min read

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The opportunity for rich, engaging, and value-added consumer advertising experiences has never been greater. Incredible advancements in technology have been made over the past decade that make this possible, and we as an industry absolutely should be proud. However, consumer trust still lags.



With the recent Facebook data debacle, the importance of solving for consumer trust has never been more pressing for our industry. Being good stewards of consumer data is the input, but it’s the multitude of outputs from use of that data that must also be tended to: brand safety, measurement, fraud, identity, data quality, and creative. These things collectively feed the advertising experience we deliver to consumers.

So, how did we get here?

We’ve all been re-targeted for those shoes we already bought, a trip we already booked, or a show we already saw. These misfires, however well-intended by the marketer who wants to send more relevant and personalized ad experiences, erode consumer trust. This in no way takes away from some of the incredibly engaging ad formats and targeting methods that exist. They just occur — or perhaps are remembered — less frequently than the arguably “poor” ad experiences. Consequently, this imbalance has weakened the consumer’s belief in the value exchange the industry posits to consumers: “Share with us your data and we will deliver you a better ad experience.”

The innovations in technology, the consumer’s move to mobile, and the real-time nature of our world have all created a double-edged sword for the marketer. On one side, there’s more opportunity than ever before to not just reach the right customer at the right time, but to do so with an ad experience that the consumer enjoys. As consumers in a tech-driven world, we’ve come to expect that from advertising.

On the other side, in order to deliver on that consumer experience, data collection is a prerequisite: Identity resolution and real-world movement are paramount. Why is this a double-edged sword? Because as consumers, the collection and use of so much personal data is scary, and the value-exchange for this data has not yet fully lived up to its promise.

The Road to Regaining Consumer Trust

This starts with continued improvements in each of the challenges listed above: brand safety, measurement, identity, creative, and data quality. At the risk of over-simplifying, if we get these right, the results will have a ripple effect: the overall ad experience improves, consumers see tangible results that impact their lives, and trust is gradually restored.

That’s step one. Further down the line, consumers will ultimately become more comfortable with sharing their relevant data, which then feeds back into marketers’ ability to continually improve the ad experience for the consumer. And the cycle repeats, continually building consumer trust.

In parallel, consider the impact that better communication with the consumer could have. The theme of “trust and transparency” runs throughout every digital industry conference, client, and partner conversation. While there are technology solutions being built to support this (i.e. blockchain, some components of header bidding, and others), the value of relationships is seeing a resurgence. People still matter in technology-driven transactions. What’s stopping us from applying this people- and relationship-based approach to consumers directly?

Today, if a consumer is truly interested in where and how their data is being collected, they have to wade through paragraphs of legalese and likely don’t even know which companies and websites to look to. It’s a daunting and unwelcoming experience. As an industry, it’s time to think about how this critical information can be made more digestible and accessible to the consumer.

The risk of getting data use wrong — identity resolution, location based insights, etc. — isn’t just a bad ad experience; it’s the loss of consumer trust. But the opportunity behind getting it right — knowing who your customers are, knowing where they are in their journey with your brand, providing them information or services that they need and will improve their lives — is inspiring.

Meridith Miller, head of commercial partnerships, MoPub

Advertising Industry Insights Social Media

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