Opinion: No more excuses—brands must take control on privacy now
The headlines came fast in 2020. In January, Google announced plans to depreciate the third-party cookie. Last week, Apple announced the end of the identifier for advertisers as we know it. We already had July 1, enforcement date of the California Consumer Privacy Act, circled on the calendar. And what’s this about a global pandemic?
This marketplace is fundamentally changing at a rate we’ve not fully appreciated. This change is not only a necessary part of maturing as an industry, but also one that’s been years in the making. This evolution impacts not only each core function, including planning, activation and measurement, but also each end of the value chain: brands and agencies, publishers and platforms. No stakeholder is immune.
If you're a marketer, this is the time to lean in. This summer you have not only the opportunity, but the responsibility, to customers, colleagues and shareholders, to understand how your media plans are executed. Do you really know all the partners on your plan? Are you truly comfortable with how they use data?
The rise of “programmatic” didn’t cause this. The duopoly didn’t cause this. We caused this as an industry. As we chased just one more data point, one more opportunity to drop cookie or measure a touchpoint, we lost sight of the real reasons so many of us decided to work in this space.
One side of the marketplace is changing rapidly. Our partners at Apple and Google continue to evolve their policies, frameworks and guidelines. Regulation will come and (maybe) go at the state and federal levels. Your guess is as good as mine as to what happens globally over the coming decade. The rules are changing and, in the near term, quickly and with drastic swings.
But we seem to forget about the side that hasn’t evolved much—ours. Surveys, studies and research galore point us toward the same conclusion: When done right with relevant, non-obtrusive brand experiences, advertising works. Consumers engage in genuine ways, and brands build lasting customer relationships. It's a win-win.
Sadly, we continue to chase an anonymous set of cookies that might identify the single individual we really want to talk to—with the same pair of brown loafers they might have accidentally clicked on when trying to read an article on bowling. That doesn’t sound like what we signed up for.
This next era of consumer-friendly, privacy-compliant personalization is here to stay. Instead of those loafers following you across your daily web-browsing routine, wouldn’t you rather interact with them during a virtual fitting with an online retailer? Or have them be displayed on a similar-sized model, through a set of personalized recommendations, while enjoying an organic shopping experience?
What I describe requires your data, content and commerce strategies to sing in harmony. Whether coordinated via simple business rules, or next-generation ML and AI engines, this is a journey, not a sprint. Make your data actionable, and not only once every 30 days. Enable dynamic content and experience optimization. Can you use data to inform what customers see, hear and engage with? Build the measurement loop to get smarter; this is the definition of test-and-learn.
Marketers, this is your time to define the future. Take advantage of it. The tools and platforms are enabling more consumer privacy-friendly controls—that’s a good thing. Consumers expect more relevant, engaging experiences—that’s a great thing. And you and I as consumers are ready for that reality—that’s the best thing.