What is toxic data and why should marketers care?

Ogury - What is toxic data and why should marketers care?

Brands safety has so far focused mostly on media placement but with consumer concerns mounting around data privacy, marketers need to understand how toxic data can harm their brand.

This is according to Ogury South East Asia managing director Niall Hogan, who spoke to The Drum ahead of the Digital Summitand Drum Digital Advertising Awards APAC.

With many brands investing time and money into getting their data strategies fit for purpose, Hogan offers advice for brands on how they can protect the integrity of their brand, while still producing more personalised, effective digital advertising.

Data has been a huge topic for businesses for some time but in APAC, what level of understanding do most marketers have around data?

Marketers in APAC have a very good understanding of data, and how important data is to drive results for their business. However, they are facing increasing concerns about data privacy and protection. Concerns that have become a prominent topic for the digital advertising industry in APAC, as privacy breaches have reached main media news channels for the first time. In the coming months, local data legislation will also change, meaning the time to drive a fundamental shift in how the digital advertising industry approaches data collection is now.

At present, many marketers in APAC find that they are being forced to rely on third-party data to identify and reach consumers. But more often than not this data is unreliable, unconsented and passed through multiple hands before it is used - resulting in higher costs and lower accuracy for marketers overall.

Local marketers have to be sure that the data they’re using is reliable, consented by the user, and that they have reassurance on the traceability and validity of the user’s consent.

Ogury talks about the concept of ‘data safety’, what does that mean?

Data safety is all about ensuring that the data you’re using is safe, not toxic, for all digital advertising. When we talk about toxic data, we refer to any advertising data that is collected or used without the explicit permission of the consumer. So, by definition, safe data is any data collected or used with freely given and informed consent from the consumer, in compliance with all data privacy laws.

We often talk about how brand safety enables advertisers to appear in the right environment, protecting the integrity of the brand by ensuring it does not appear alongside harmful content. In much the same way, data safety is a concept that ensures that the data marketer’s use for advertising is safe from reputational, legal and financial risk and collected with trusted and traceable user consent.

A lot of marketers are very aware of brand safety and have a strategy for that but can the same be said for data safety?

We must raise awareness, and show that there is a real problem when it comes to data integrity. Brand safety issues - along with ad fraud - are often talked about, and can instantly ruin consumers' perception of brands. That’s why such a huge amount of time, money and technology is committed to tackling these problems. But now, as the digital advertising industry evolves, toxic data is also a threat to brands. As mentioned previously, this is any advertising data collected or used without the explicit permission of the consumer. And it is harming brands in much the same way.

Just as it’s imperative for marketers to ensure the media upon which their ads are shown is brand safe, so too must they ensure that the data they use for advertising purposes is safe. Verification companies have taken several years to educate the market on the need for brand safety and today we are on the same journey with data safety. If the term ‘traceable consent’ is not yet part of marketers daily, professional vernacular, I’m sure it soon will be.

Why is it something the industry should be talking about?

Gartner predicts that half of the world’s population will have its personal data covered by privacy regulation by the year 2022. Today, using toxic data in countries governed by privacy regulations isn’t just improper, it’s illegal. The collection, handling or use of consumer data without consent is now punishable by law - carrying huge fines. And this will soon be the case for all countries in the APAC region too.

Aside from the financial havoc that a data privacy fine can render, it’s the implications, including all the subsequent bad press that a brand could receive, that’s the real issue. How can consumers be expected to trust a brand with anything, if they can’t trust it with their data?

If marketers care about protecting their brand, they do not want to be associated with any of the legal, financial, or reputational risks associated with using toxic data. This is why data safety should be at the forefront of every marketer’s mind.

New concepts, such as data safety, come up often for marketers, how do you think brands can keep on top of changing issues like this? How can marketers keep up to speed on this topic?

Much like brand safety and fraud prevention, data safety is an issue that needs to be dealt with head-on, forming a critical part of marketer’s discussions, planning, strategy, and execution with all and any ad-tech partner they work with.

As most media agencies work as guardians to the advertiser’s brand, they are well placed to help marketers navigate complex concepts like this. A proactive marketer can ask their agency to speak to various suppliers who work in this area of expertise, or better still, ask the agency to organize an educational morning with suppliers who specialize in this specific topic. Most suppliers will be willing to invest their time to help raise awareness of such topics that are of vital importance.

This year has seen much change for the industry, how can digital help marketers keep up?

Even if the pandemic has slowed down the imposition of new privacy regulations, the industry is still facing increased scrutiny over its data practices. The pressure for marketers to comply with legislation is more prevalent than ever. Users are more aware of the value of their data online, with contract tracing apps being the latest test on privacy - failing in most countries so far.

For marketers operating globally, adapting practices to comply with all existing and upcoming legislation, and ensuring users are aware of the data value exchange is a real challenge. And if compliance wasn’t hard enough, marketers still need to grow their businesses and generate positive results from their digital investments - all with a major crisis and subsequent budget cuts occurring.

To keep up, marketers should partner with digital advertising technology companies that are well-versed on the topic of privacy, and ensure compliance with the highest standards of data privacy and protection.

Ogury is a partner of The Drum Digital Summit and The Drum Digital Advertising Awards Asia Pacific.

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