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With less customer tracking data on the horizon there is a new opportunity for better personalisation

By Monica Tailor

McCANN Colombia


The Drum Network article

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February 10, 2021 | 5 min read

For a long while now, personalised advertising has been touted as the holy grail of digital advertising, but it hasn’t unequivocally solved the marketing challenge for businesses of achieving personalisation at scale. Personalised advertising should remove irrelevant ads which is a good thing, so why don’t we see this at scale yet?


Those of us who work in digital advertising can see that we have the building blocks of achieving the utopia (or dystopia depending on how you look at it) of hyper-personalised advertising, and the substantial journey ahead of us.

Most of the personalised advertising we see is based on basic data points; name, location, purchase history, browsing history, and click history. This level of basic personalisation tends to lead to some fairly basic creative executions; you only need to have experienced retargeting to realise that an ad with the product you left in a basket is now stalking you across the internet.

This blunt approach was heralded as the start of personalisation, but it hasn’t gone much further than this.

There is a need for more data to be shared to move to truly personalised (relevant) advertising, and that’s where we run into challenges.

Privacy concerns are on the rise

GWI tells us that people are more concerned about their personal privacy than ever before; in 2019 61% of internet users were concerned about the internet eroding their personal privacy. As a result, there is a growing conflict between consumer privacy and personalised advertising.

Internet users are well aware that they are leaving an ever-growing trail of personal data wherever they go – an awareness evermore illuminated by the pan-European introduction of GDPR.

The worries about privacy stem, in part, from a better understanding of what personal data is worth and in part from a lack of trust. High profile data breaches, the ‘stalker’ nature of some personal advertising and the gravitas around GDPR means consumers are more aware but don’t necessarily feel in control.

The tech giants’ response to privacy

This rise of concern over our privacy and personal data isn’t stopping there. Technology services are responding by allowing customers to take more control in the first instance; cookie consent, iOS14 prompting for tracking permission and Facebook making it easier for consumers to see ‘their interests’ are some of the more obvious ways that the tech giants are taking a more consumer-centric approach to privacy.

Taking it one step further, Google will block all 3rd party cookies in Chrome from 2022. All these factors together are signalling the end of tracking personalisation as we currently know it.

These moves are all about building trust in consumers’ eyes and giving them back control, but it will have an immediate effect on the most common types of personalised ads we currently see.

What does that mean for personalisation?

We need to think differently.

We need to use different data to base decisions on and cogitate about the relationship brands have with consumers and their data.

Consumers are more aware than ever of the commercial value of their data and why nurturing this intangible asset more transparently and openly can lead to better customer-centric data and better personalisation for them.

Consumers say that data exchange is attractive when they see personal benefit. They want to see representative advertising and greater emphasis on customer-controlled data by brands.

If we then look at data in a different way, for some time the social platforms have been talking about signal-based intent. Brands are starting to move from user demographics to individually-personalised experiences and allowing AI to understand behaviour and tailor experience based on intention.

What is clear is that the experience needs to take into account the whole customer journey. Still, with the changes to cookies and tracking coming down the line, this will be challenging for anyone interested in triumphing in this arena.

What does the future hold?

With many brands striving for mass personalisation, responding to behaviours and matching messages to be delivered at an optimal moment in time requires creating highly-personalised digital experiences for specific audiences based on a set of criteria. This goes beyond the kind of tracking and demographic data we have traditionally used for personalisation and into using multiple sources of behaviour data plus a layer of logic (most likely AI-driven) to understand what that customer is looking for, why and how. So, we can deliver more meaningful content, in more ways and more channels.

Monica Tailor, head of live at McCann UK


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McCANN Colombia

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