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Why brands can’t keep consumers in the dark on data tracking

By Thomas Hobbs, Journalist

January 2, 2020 | 4 min read

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Marketers are still not doing a good enough job explaining to consumers how their data is being tracked.

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Why brands can’t keep consumers in the dark on data tracking

Speaking on a panel at The Drum’s Programmatic Punch event earlier this month, Belle Cartwright, director of data strategy for EMEA at Essence, said that even though GDPR is changing how brands approach data, many are still banking on consumers being willfully ignorant. She argued that this was the “wrong strategy.”

“You have to inform consumers properly on how their data is being used. How many of them know, for example, that their device ID on their smartphone is being stored so brands can look at their viewing habits to programmatically target them in the future? My guess would be not many,” Cartwright explained.

“We need to do a better job explaining why this data is collected and what the value exchange is to the consumers. Banking on them to not ask any questions is the wrong strategy and will only cause more damage in the future.”

Yet Tim Hussein, managing principal at Ebiquity Tech, questioned why marketers would heavily invest in this kind of programmatic advertising in the first place. He called out “mistruths”, likening them to lies told on the infamous ‘Vote Leave’ bus in the Brexit campaign, which give marketers a false impression of the true power of programmatic.

“Generally programmatic ads perform worse than other types of media. A lot of advertisers can pull back from programmatic and it won’t effect their ROI at all,” he claimed. “Publishers are selling programmatic with mistruths. Big DMP companies say it will make your efficiencies go up X amount, but then their cookie pools are inaccurate or these projections aren’t applied to all campaigns. There’s a lot of half truths being told.”

He added: “Right now there’s two extremes out there: you either get told programmatic is the best thing since slice bread or it’s a disaster. The reality is it’s somewhere in the middle.”

Also on the panel was Nick Stringer, vice president of global engagement and operations at Trustworthy Accountability Group, who claimed marketers should brace themselves for even more changes around data and GDPR.

“Yes, in theory, GDPR should cover the challenges we face around data, but it was only six years in the making and with the rapid rate of change we’re seeing technologically, it will almost certainly be altered soon,” he advised. “You would hope policy makers would put something in place that is more robust and covers things like the privacy directive, and reforms electronic communications much more deeply.”

The biggest looming threat approaching programmatic advertising will be the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which comes into place at the start of 2020, according to Jacob Eborn, privacy consultant manager at OneTrust PreferenceChoice. Although it won’t affect the UK, it could well set the tone for global changes.

Echoing Stringer’s comments, he concluded: “Everyone needs to be aware that how you define requirements for GDPR today probably won’t be the same in 18 months time. Thanks to the CCPA, it could soon be a lawyer who makes the case that a brand has been doing some unlawful. If you are a marketer and not comfortable with privacy litigation then you need to get comfy, and fast.”

Ebiquity and OneTrust were both partners of Programmatic Punch UK 2019. Register now for 2020.

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