Track or treat? Why customer privacy doesn’t have to come at the expense of relevant advertising

Halloween usually marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. This year, the peak retail season is even more critical than ever for businesses across industries who have struggled to cope following the effects of the pandemic.

The race to reach the consumer is on. However, with vast swathes of the UK unable to work due to lockdown restrictions, even with extra governmental financial support, it’s fair to assume that purse strings are tighter than ever. Customers are being urged to shop early and shop online, making the November period more important than ever for brands looking to get a Christmas boost. Digital marketing plays an even bigger role in the marketing funnel than it has in the past as people look to delivery rather than the department store. However, reaching customers online is a complicated task in a world where people are waking up to the ways the advertising industry understands individuals and targets them accordingly, and they don’t like what they see. 

We know that targeted advertising works, and that customers expect to see ads that are relevant to their interests. However, 58% of consumers in the UK worry about tailored content from brands comprising their privacy, while almost half feel they are unable to effectively protect their data today because they simply have no idea how it is used by businesses. In fact, a quarter of customers do not even realise that advertising is what funds the websites they visit and the social media platforms they are addicted to. This gap in understanding is slowly being closed, but regulators and consumers alike are less than reassured by the realities of digital tracking. As a result, regulation is coming from all corners – and closer scrutiny is showing that even our best practice guidelines are in breach of GDPR. With the countdown on until Google Chrome eliminates use of the third party cookie, and other leading browsers like Mozilla already cracking down on privacy, it’s clear advertisers are in need of a future fit model. 

While advertisers can continue to rely on the ‘walled gardens’ for first party data led advertising, prospecting across the open web becomes more challenging in a privacy-first approach to targeted advertising. Smaller publishers who can’t rely on logged-in users but still attract dedicated readerships make up a huge part of the web that most of us use on a daily basis, and targeting their visitors is critical to digital success. Advertisers must ensure they are still reaching the users who are using these on browsers without third party cookies enabled, or even in incognito mode. 

At Nano Interactive, we recognised that this would become a thorn in the digital marketers’ side a long time ago. We built a solution that was genuinely privacy centric that also powered truly effective advertising. For those of us who have been in the industry since its inception, this solution is a ‘back to the future’ moment: it’s all about context once more. However, this time around, incredible innovation in machine learning and dedicated work from our team means that this is context with capability. We can combine live (in the moment) data such as searches on publisher sites that bring a viewer to a page, and advanced intelligence on the context and entities of the page to understand both what an individual is looking at and how they got there. We then use these points in combination to create an ‘intent score’, which provides insight on how relevant the visit may be to a given client’s campaign goals, meaning that we can ensure the ads are only going to the most relevant of site visitors. 

This is all achieved without any form of tracking and long-term data storage on an individual or even anonymised ‘profile’. We have so far delivered over 2000 campaigns for over 500 leading global brands and the results to prove that this approach works. At the start of the year we ran a successful campaign for Mondelez using our 100% cookie-less solution and exceeded reach targets, reaching over 2.2m users during a very busy period for the global brand.

In a time where privacy is coming to the forefront of regulator and consumer mindsets, with the writing on the wall for third party tracking and questions over the compliance of identity-based solutions, advertisers need to ask the tough questions now about whether their digital campaigns are privacy first and future fit. It’s time to stop asking ‘can we get away with this’ and start asking how we can enshrine customer privacy as the gold standard of digital advertising. If we must be reminded by regulators to respect our end consumer, we’re not working hard enough to improve the system. This Halloween,  I urge you all to have a think about whether there’s anything the customer would find scary about your approach to advertising.

 

Author: Carl White, CEO & Co-Founder, Nano