Consumers want more of their data private – how should agencies and brands respond?
As we explore the latest issues surrounding advertising data, a dozen agency leaders explain how they’re helping clients navigate rising consumer concerns over privacy.
How are agencies helping brands stay ahead of changing consumer sentiments?
Consumers are getting more concerned about their privacy online. In the UK for example, think thank Demos has been lobbying the government to update the Data Protection Act to keep up with modern advertising. It might be a while until that happens, but it seems that the wind is blowing in one direction only.
Agencies need to make marketing dollars work as hard as possible – brands exist to turn a profit, at the end of the day. But consumer privacy concerns are rising to the point that advertisers have a chance to gain (or at least preserve) goodwill by easing off on the gas.
We asked agencies in the US and the UK how they were advising clients in this area.
How do you solve a problem like... navigating consumer privacy concerns?
Laura Kell, chief data and product officer, Havas Media Group: “Just because we can doesn’t mean we should. The industry often looks for what is permissible with data (what we can do to get away with it) rather than seeking out properly permissioned use of data. This is wrong both morally and intellectually when it comes to data usage in advertising. Clients should respect the spirit of the regulation rather than only the law and change their behavior in line with changing consumer behavior. In many ways, the focus on the cookie has led us all down a rabbit hole – focusing on what people are doing, rather than why. Linking the ‘why’ to the ‘what’ gives us more meaningful insights about the consumer translates into more meaningful results for the client’s bottom line.”
Delphine Terrioux, head of data strategy, EMEA at EssenceMediacomX: “Consumers expect relevant brand experiences at all points of the customer journey and an omnichannel view of their interactions is fundamental to achieving this. Brands have to be smart in how they leverage customer data to acknowledge their privacy concerns and the demand for seamless and tailored experiences, not just when using the data but right from the point of acquisition - they need to provide a relevant value exchange. They must also actively look for new ways to manage personalization without customer data, for example, through more advanced contextualization or propensity models, and deliver experiences consumers feel are worth sharing their data for.”
Ethan Koehler, vice-president of digital experience and technology, Hanson Dodge: “We start by asking our clients: ‘What data do we truly need vs what do we simply want?’ We advise our clients to minimize the ask and be completely transparent, making their privacy stance prominent on their site. A simple email address can be a good way to start, accompanied by the promise of something of value in return e.g., a newsletter or an offer. Over time, you can make additional asks and enrich that data, but only after you have earned that preliminary level of trust. This takes time and patience but pays dividends by reducing friction.”
David Lloyd, managing director of data EMEA at Wunderman Thompson: “Privacy legislation is both a hot and complex topic; in the UK, but even more so when you need to manage varying regulations across countries. Change across the advertising ecosystem is outpacing legislation.
“We advise clients to stay ahead of the curve, not only in adhering to privacy legalities and how advertising platforms are responding, but to ask a bigger question – ‘What is ethically responsible for your brand when it comes to data privacy?’. In 2021, we launched Entrust, our Data Ethics advisory service, which helps clients with exactly this challenge; going beyond the legal minimum; ‘what do you, as a brand and business, believe is right and ethical?’ We’ve worked with some of the biggest brands to define these principles and guidelines, then help adopt them through their organization so they can gain that precious trust with their customers.”
Kelly Leger, managing director, Deloitte Digital: “Privacy regulations and significant-tech disruptions have pushed brands into a massive quandary: how best do they advertise and personalize to customers and consumers alike? As brands are navigating these new waters, it is imperative that they keep their customers as the north star. At Deloitte Digital, we advise the brands we work with to offer value in the market consistently. Whether it is new content on social channels, engaging messaging about product features, or creating fun viral moments, customers and consumers will gladly offer their data for advertising and personalization when the brand drives deeper engagement with its customer base.”
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Christian Pierre, chief intelligence officer and partner, Gut Miami: “It has become harder and more expensive for brands to build a first-party database – because of privacy concerns and because some brands have abused customer databases by bombarding prospects with messages through their owned channels. This makes people reluctant to keep sharing their contact information. Users are also aware that their personal data is valuable and those who don't care about privacy will expect something in return for it. The 1:1 personalization wave has long gone. People are not comfortable with sponsored posts targeting them based on data. The only exception is retargeting, because they know that if you leave an abandoned cart, that product is going to haunt you for a while.”
Isabelle Baas, chief digital, data and technology officer at Starcom: “In my opinion, agencies and clients are very aware of data privacy and are being more purposeful than ever in using the data they collect and putting in place processes that protect consumer privacy. We’ve witnessed taskforces being put in place and discussions with Data Protection Officers (DPOs) being had about how best to gain access to client first-party data in a thoughtful, purposeful, and respectful way that drives relevance for the consumer and business outcomes for the advertiser.”
James Faulkner, head of PPC, Vertical Leap: “We recommend that businesses roll out GA4 as soon as possible. This helps depersonalize and aggregate marketing insights which are essential for businesses when attributing ROI and understanding their visitor engagement and business data.
“Our in-house data science and paid media teams work closely with Google to roll out consent mode and enhanced conversions – which aim to use machine learning models where users opt out of cookie collection. This helps fill some data gaps which would exist if users opt out of tracking for privacy. Correctly installing a cookie management platform is crucial to comply with the changing privacy landscape. Users actually prefer to receive more tailored ads, rather than being hit with irrelevant ads - so educating those who do want to strike a balance between privacy and fully functioning sites is important.”
Sheena Banton, senior vice-president of customer marketing, at Bounteous: “When it comes to consumer privacy, companies should prioritize legal compliance in their industry and location. To build trust with customers, brands should be transparent about data collection and use, including explicit communication on the purpose of data collection. Additionally, companies should be respectful of their customers' data by using it thoughtfully, considering their preferences, and offering value in exchange for data usage and consent. Finally, customers value personalized experiences but need clear explanations of how data is being used to achieve them. By being upfront about data usage and offering personalized experiences, brands can create a better overall customer experience.”
Dave Nugent, executive vice-president of data and analytics, Fusion92: “We go beyond industry standards to protect the presumed knowledge marketers have of consumers by implementing self-regulating measures that limit access to the data. If we gain access to legally obtained third-party marketing data that feels too invasive, we’ll either avoid the data or impose conditions that require us to be the only ones who can activate it. We can ensure the advertiser doesn’t inadvertently cross a line, ruining the consumer experience. If managed properly, the utilization of consumer data can be mutually beneficial — the advertiser can target their messages better, and the consumer is exposed to relevant offers.”
Curtis Cochran, senior vice-president of analytics and data science at global digital consultancy, Definition 6: “As a marketer, it is essential to create experiences that feel natural to the consumer and reinforce that your company is a trusted partner who is relied on to protect their data and use it in a way that is beneficial to them. With that trust comes a responsibility to be transparent about the data being collected, how it’s used, and who it may be shared with. Ultimately, consumers should see their data for what it is; a commodity to be leveraged for their benefit, and when and where they provide it should be up to them.”
Nick Drabicky, senior vice-president and general manager of client services, January Digital: “Our agency is adopting to modern, post-privacy marketing faster than our competitors and it’s showing. Solving a total business challenge –where the combination of the product, the marketing, the consumer, the market, and so on – must be where brands and agencies mature. In recent history brands and marketers alike, got very stuck in the premise of precision marketing: unbelievably precise targeting through the manipulation of data. But as privacy takes center stage, true integration of all marketing elements and the measurement of all outcomes (not just sales) must be front and center to win over consumers.”
Rhys Cater, managing director, Precis Digital: “Privacy is more than just cookie banners. Advertisers must adopt a strategic and holistic approach to privacy beyond mere checkbox compliance. Businesses must realize that privacy fundamentally changes how they use customer data and communicate with their audience. Collecting extensive data, trying to measure everything with perfect accuracy, and hyper-targeting may yield short-term results, but in the long run, it erodes consumer trust and puts businesses behind. Privacy is a significant societal change in digital marketing, and it presents an enormous opportunity for growth. A 2022 survey conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Precis indicates that 79% of business leaders believe a privacy-first approach is the future. It’s time to back up words with actions.“
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