With every major digital platform offering hyper-targeted media and self-serve interfaces for advertisers of any budget, it’s amazing that television, nearly a century old, still reigns supreme and continues to be a vital platform to reach billions of people worldwide.
To keep pace with the digital platforms, massive amounts of data are now being collected from smart TVs and set-top boxes.
The world’s smartest brands have adopted advanced TV advertising, utilizing data to power their media planning and measurement for everything from linear TV to over-the-top streaming video. And with the explosion in data that marketers have used for digital targeting and measurement, a revolution at the foundation of television advertising feels long overdue.
However, with digital transformation comes digital headaches. We’re already seeing legacy digital advertising issues like fraud and addressability emerge as growing challenges in the connected TV space, as bad actors look to take advantage of the spending influx into this nascent channel.
Whatever emerges as television 2.0 is going to be fraught with familiar landmines we must not ignore: most importantly, data protection and consumer privacy.
Privacy has topped the list of digital marketing issues for several years now. For good reasons, consumers have reacted and we now have sweeping new privacy regulations, starting with Europe’s GDPR and followed by state-level regulation across the US.
This rising tide of consumer privacy protections is long anticipated, but runs directly parallel to the growing demand among marketers for rigorous measurement and precise targeting of all their advertising investments.
TV has the opportunity to get things right, and do so at a crucial moment that will define the viability of our market. But that means putting privacy where it deserves to be: at the center of all product development and innovation.
If we get this wrong, we will inevitably find ourselves at the center of the next set of government inquiries on data protection.
An ingrained respect for consumer privacy
TV does not need a Cambridge Analytica scandal, where data was unwittingly sold to third parties who brokered the data without consumer consent, only for it to be misused. While the future of TV lies in granular targeting, privacy is a ticking time bomb for companies that buy data from those who have not established a consumer relationship or basis for having this TV data.
It is imperative that all innovation in the connected TV platform be built on an inherent understanding of — and respect for — consumer privacy. In other digital channels, this realization came too late and resulted in massive penalties, congressional hearings and new regulations.
Facebook is still facing consumer ire for the way it handled its user’s data, and many legacy players in the online ad space have completely rethought how they collect and use consumer information. Some chose to abandon certain geographic regions, rather than comply with new rules — a wholly unsustainable approach given the inevitable trend to replicate Europe’s privacy regulations around the world.
When viewers make their personal viewership data available, it should come with the promise that the TV industry can deliver a value exchange while maintaining data protection and privacy-compliant solutions. For example:
This is an area where many other digital channels have tried to slide by in the past, only to be confronted by privacy and data protection regulations. The need should be obvious at this point: consumers have a right to understand what personal data their TVs and connected devices collect, how it will be used, and how it can be managed.
This information should be front and center for consumers when it’s time for them to decide what level of personalization they want in exchange for providing their data. If consumers decide to opt out of personalized experiences, their service level should not be diminished.
It is fundamental that people receive a clear path to choose, as well as easy ways to change their mind later, including the ability to reset their identifier.
Consumers should always be in control over how they are identified. Name, phone number, mailing address, and IP address are all identifiers that cannot easily change, so viewers should not be forced to do so if they want to clear the associated data.
Consumers have a right to be forgotten and that should be as easy as the click of a button. To provide the best possible experiences for consumers and the best outcomes for advertisers, the insights gleaned from TV viewership should enhance the experience for content and advertising.
If consumers don’t find the value in having their data collected and used for measurement, their opt-out decision should trigger a domino effect that deletes their data, in a timely matter, from all the ways it can be matched back to them.
A consumer’s control over their online identity is in fact more critical than anything, because even if a hacker were to steal their data, the consumer should be able to sleep at night knowing that managing their identity is the best way to prevent that data from being misused.
Many of today's solutions feature an opt-out button that doesn’t protect privacy at all. The vendor might stop collecting data, yes. But they do nothing to disassociate viewers from the data that already exists or has been copied in ways that consumers cannot easily see.
The companies shaping the advanced TV landscape should be actively engaged in the conversations happening now around consumer privacy. Today, too many companies are trying to shirk their responsibilities in this arena because they are licensing data from data brokers rather than collecting it themselves or from a partner with consumer consent.
Our prediction is that the market for third-party data brokers will dry up and die by the end of 2020.
The problem is that we all know our own personal data hasn’t been collected in a proper and transparent way, yet we choose to look the other way. This isn’t a sustainable way to build a marketing program, or a business, and when companies hide from these important dialogues, no one wins.
The future of TV belongs to those who learn from digital’s past and put respect for consumer privacy at the heart of their organizations and initiatives.
Ashwin Navin is chief executive officer of Samba TV