Privacy Watch: Cookies, Identity, And The Future Of Targeting

By Aqilliz  

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Privacy watch

Today’s digital marketing model is operating on borrowed time. Marketers are straddling two worlds: On one end, a sector underpinned by the conventions of the past, reliant on cookie-based targeting while on the other, pioneering the decentralised values of Web 3.0. Navigating this shift requires innovative approaches — brands not only need to rethink the technologies they use to connect with their customers, but also re-evaluate the relationships they hope to build with them.

Much has been said about the upcoming depreciation of third-party cookies, which have been the cornerstone of digital targeting strategies for two decades. Although Google has delayed the move until 2023, marketers are still preparing themselves for a seismic shift in the way digital campaigns are managed, measured, and optimised.

After all, the removal of third-party cookies is reflective of an even bigger moment towards privacy. Growing concerns surrounding unsavoury tracking techniques have resulted in a wave of regulations and platform changes designed to limit unconsenting data collection and its use for targeting.

Ending invasive tactics

The pressure on lawmakers to phase out behavioural advertising has been mounting for years following concerns that it is not only invasive, but also poses a risk to individuals and society at large. Earlier this year, the EU drafted legislation suggesting a total ban on AI systems that deploy “subliminal techniques beyond a person’s consciousness in order to materially distort a person’s behaviour”.

That being said, pressure from regulators shouldn’t be the only driver. Invasive and poorly conceived ads do precisely the opposite of what they aim to do: They drive consumers away from the brand. A study revealed that brands risk losing 38 percent of their customers due to poor marketing personalisation efforts. Today, consumers are empowered to punish brands for uncanny or ineffective personalisation tactics, as enabled by operating system updates such as Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature. While a sure win for privacy advocates, such changes have forced brands and marketers to wrap their heads around these changes to ensure compliance, while at the same time finding alternative ways to locate and track audiences online.

Yet even within these parameters, platforms are still falling foul. In October, researchers revealed that Facebook’s advertising platform could be used to implement nanotargeting based on interest-based data, opening up the potential to target a single individual. This has only heightened privacy concerns and demonstrated that neither regulations nor platforms’ own protections are watertight when it comes to anonymising identities.

It’s clear that the conventional way of targeting isn't going to work in the new age of marketing. In our fixation on cookies, we’ve lost sight of a very important fact. Targeting isn't simply about serving ads to the right consumers, it’s about serving our customers in the right way. This means going back to basics and redefining our relationship with the consumer.

As the oft-quoted Steve Jobs said, “innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity, not a threat”. Marketers can use this challenging moment as a chance to redesign their overall digital marketing approach and create strategies that will translate to the new world of targeting.

1. Focusing on the consumer benefits

Consumers want personalisation and are comfortable sharing data so as long as it can ensure a better experience. A US study found that 81 percent of consumers are willing to share basic personal information for personalisation and that 83 percent of consumers are more willing to share data if the brand is transparent about how it will be used. With this in mind, brands need to be clear about their data requirements and ask themselves, is this data point truly needed, what is it for, and how will the end-to-end consumer journey be improved as a result of it?

Instead of doing what is permissible from a data capture and usage perspective, we should be looking at doing what is ethical. How much do we need to know and how will it benefit consumers? Consumers share data with brands they trust, and do not want that data to be used in a way that puts commercial profit before their privacy.

2. Building a scalable tech stack

Thankfully, technology is enabling new forms of targeted marketing, providing a safe and secure infrastructure for customer data. Brands can invest in privacy-safe tools to capture and organise zero-party shared by consumers during their interactions, building a picture of their customers that is both private and insightful. For example, blockchain can allow brands, publishers, and platforms alike to have a clear record of all the insights collected across the customer journey. With its tamper-proof, immutable quality, blockchain enables data controllers as defined by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), to have an auditable record of how data was used, for how long, for what purpose, and by whom.

Its compliance benefits aside, the power of decentralised tech lies in its ability to scale, from targeting to optimisation. Customer data platforms (CDPs) democratise access to data for marketers, enabling a single view of the customer for personalisation across channels. Mixed media modeling then demonstrates the impact of each marketing channel so that marketers can reallocate their budgets to tap into the areas with the greatest ROI.

3. A privacy-first approach

Consumers want transparency. They want to know how the data will be stored and used, and crucially, that it will not fall into the hands of an unpermissioned organisation. Thankfully new technologies like blockchain are providing the infrastructure to deliver security while also allowing for data to be used across the AdTech ecosystem to inform impactful and effective ads.

For example, Aqilliz leverages its own proprietary, state-of-the-art hybrid blockchain infrastructure to deliver privacy-compliant analytics within a safe and secure ecosystem. By storing consented data in secure vaults, decentralised data collaboration can happen between advertisers and publishers, with the anonymised data never leaving its native location. This architecture allows brands to deliver hyper-personalised ads to their customers, without sharing the identifiable data points with third-parties.

A clear path forward

Brands that can earn the trust of consumers in this way stand to benefit in the long run. As marketers look to the future, the balance between privacy and personalisation will be more perilous than ever. Consumers want to be assured that the brands they support are responsible with their data and respectful of their privacy, all the while experiencing the same personalised experiences they’ve come to expect and love. As we collectively transition towards Web 3.0, the ethical use of consumer data will occupy centre stage — it’s high time that we treat it with the respect it deserves.

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