Advertising is full of gifted storytellers, which is why it’s so surprising that we as an industry have lost sight of the real heroes of advertising’s story—the people who find value in our ads. To make advertising more useful to consumers, the ecosystem previously focused on individual, short-term solutions (or minor edits) to online identity. Instead, it should have been completely rewriting the plot of advertising and privacy.
Browsers, operating systems and regulatory authorities are making sweeping changes to provide people with more control and transparency. But the fragmented approach to these changes is making it more difficult for them to understand how their data is used and protected. And worse, these changes are disrupting the positive advertising experiences people enjoy while they discover and shop for the things they need.
With recent announcements from Apple regarding iOS 14 limitations around opt-ins for its mobile ad ID (the identifier for advertising, or IDFA), as well as Google’s planned end to third-party cookies, advertising players appear to be trying to be the heroes of their own stories, rather than fulfilling supporting roles for better consumer journeys.
Advertising has reached a pivotal point where we can rewrite how we provide utility to people while protecting their privacy, rather than making minor edits in our story. This rewrite focuses on keeping peoples’ rights at the center of every new solution, while also maintaining value for the entire advertising ecosystem—not for only a few players.
So, what should be rewritten?
1. How we work together.
Industry collaboration will be key to building a long-term solution that outlasts a few individual identifiers and benefits the entire ecosystem. One way to ensure collaboration is for industry players to contribute to working groups such as the W3C, Project Rearc and PRAM. Advertising players can also review and provide feedback to industry proposals that bring balance back to the consumer in the advertising value exchange.
2. How we provide utility through ads.
We need to provide people with seamless, nondisruptive advertising experiences that are customized to their needs and delivered from the advertisers they like. With limitations to IDFA and without third-party cookies, advertisers will explore a three-pronged approach to personalization by continuing one-to-one advertising where permission exists while leveraging interest group and contextual advertising. As we move forward, we should invest in making these methods interoperate in privacy-safe ways.
3. How we enable privacy preferences.
Privacy controls need to make it easy for people to permit the use and sharing of their data—ideally operating for consumers from one central place where they can select and reset their preferences, rather than doing so in multiple browsers, devices and services. Foremost, we should establish a governing body dedicated to ensuring that all identity rules and standards are enforced.
According to a recent global Omdia study of 5,000 people, commissioned by Criteo, 70% of respondents agree or strongly agree that they’re happy to have advertising in return for free content. But 69% of those surveyed cite “personalized advertising infringes my data privacy (uses information I don’t want to share)” in their top three dislikes and concerns about personalized advertising. This reinforces the need for advertisers to provide more transparency and give people more control.
What can advertisers do now?
As the industry addresses these fundamental issues, there are ways that advertisers can prepare for their impact now. Perhaps the best investment is to increase their access to first-party data, which carries consumer permission for use, whether through partnerships or direct-to-consumer activations. They can also be prepared to deliver the best possible ad experience without identifiers or shared data by exploring contextual advertising that combines a variety of other anonymous signals to allow for more useful ads.
Advertisers can also educate people on the value exchange they receive from ads so they’re more likely to participate and provide consent. They can conduct research to test and optimize how permission is granted in consumer experiences, educate consumers on the value of opting in and offer direct incentives to do so. Being people-centered will help advertisers better understand customers’ buying journeys so they can be more useful.
App marketers can continue to leverage the IDFA until early 2021, while preparing for the future by ensuring they can activate their first-party data with the help of partners. They can also strategize with their technology partners to determine where to invest their budget for app installation, android retargeting and contextual campaigns.
Writing the next chapter
This much change can seem daunting, but providing people with increased control and transparency is a necessary step toward gaining their trust and making the value they receive from advertising as clear as possible. We’ve reached a natural inflection point in our history, and our industry will need to continue to work together to write a future that gives people the happily ever after they deserve.