With sophisticated data-gathering techniques leading to increased capacity for advertising and marketing personalization, some consumers are responding well to a richer, more customized experience while others feel threatened by privacy concerns. As a result, businesses are increasingly trying to balance respect for their audiences with the effective (and profitable) use of such data.
“Privacy is a game changer,” writes Forrester Research Principal Analyst Fatemeh Khatibloo in Forbes. “This is the year to up the ante on your investments: you need the right cross-functional team, good governance practices, and the technical tools to ensure all of your systems are in compliance with both laws and internal privacy guidelines. In the end … customer-obsessed business leaders who get privacy right will thrive in the Age of the Customer.”
Recent outcomes of the struggle have included the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s LEAN Principles program and a cookie-limitation movement founded by the nonprofit Network Advertising Initiative. Other players throughout the ecosystem have been self-monitoring through enterprise tag management.
Since ad blocking has become so prolific, with 198 million users logged last year, the LEAN program’s immediate goal is to “establish a LEAN scoring system by which all publishers, all advertisers and all agencies will be able to measure their activities against rational, reasonable and consumer-friendly performance benchmarks.”
From many consumers’ vantage, publishers, technology providers and advertisers view their audiences as generic revenue sources whose lives and behavior can be easily tracked for profit purposes — regardless of how intrusive that may seem. Many people seek stricter control of information regarding their financial and personal lives and their children’s lives, especially in light of the vast amount of data now stored on the cloud. A consumer movement to that effect has been growing over the past several years, leading to the ad blocking as well as last year’s White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection.
Businesses, in turn, are concerned about the loss of revenue from ad blocking and the decreased opportunities for relevant, highly customized advertising and marketing. Many fear the privacy movement will crush their business models as consumers increasingly shun the advertising and data tracking that supports multiple industries.
Because many consumers still see the value in ads and marketing messages, however, compromise is still possible. Research shows many consumers see their overall lack of privacy as irreversible, and as such they’re open to the tracking of their buying behavior if it leads to valuable buying offers. Some just seek more transparency and choice in how and when their data is accessed, with more control over third-party participation. And others want the sense of control that comes with better legislation and enforcement of e-privacy.
By becoming proactive on privacy issues, marketing and advertising technology businesses can maintain the now-established publishing business models without coming across as Big Brother.
“LEAN is the basis for a sustainable advertising ecosystem,” predicts IAB President/CEO Randall Rothenberg. “An embrace of LEAN principles will bring this industry back to the rational center.”