Advertising holds the keys to the free internet, but to succeed, it must be hyper-relevant while respecting consumer privacy – particularly since consumers are savvier than ever about their data rights. James Patterson, VP, Client Services, EMEA & Global Operations at The Trade Desk looks at the careful balance that needs to be struck between the two, which should fuel rather than fight each other.
The advertising industry plays a crucial, often understated role in our society. Whether it’s the daily news fix, a dose of culture, or just good old-fashioned life inspo, advertising still very much holds the keys to the open internet. From Reddit to Rachmaninov, advertising uses data to democratise access to cost-free content for consumers of all shapes and sizes.
In the past few years however, the advertising industry and the role it plays have been under growing scrutiny, with some unscrupulous advertisers irritating and intruding rather than inspiring. In a world where consumers won’t tolerate bad advertising – and where more and more are savvy about their data rights – the industry needs to do all it can to find the right balance between privacy and relevant advertising. And that means thinking very carefully about the data that we use, and how we use it.
Advertisers and tech providers are – or should be – increasingly aware, that they need just enough data to accurately understand consumer behaviour, predict preferences and target effectively – but no more. For example, whilst it might be possible to track and identify which side of the street a consumer walked down before entering a shop, that much detail isn’t necessary for most campaigns. Likewise, we don’t need to know someone’s IQ, family history or passport number to make smart predictions about the products or services they’re likely to be interested in. Ultimately, none of those data points has an impact on what that person buys, but they will make users privacy feel violated. The line in the sand is clear: advertising must be hyper-relevant, but intrinsically respectful of consumer privacy.
Despite the best of intentions, this hasn’t always turned out right up till now. Excitement around new capabilities has sometimes erred into an enthusiastic uptake of new gizmos without staying mindful of this fundamental balance that needs maintaining. The result has been pressure in some quarters, with the walled gardens in particular coming under fire for pushing the boundaries. Initiatives like the IAB Gold Standard (and international equivalents) will go a long way to guiding sustainable growth in the industry, but it’s up to companies like us to find solutions and make them stick.
So what does a better approach look like? The advent of universal ID solutions shows a promising way forward. Unified ID essentially allows advertisers to build up a completely anonymous online footprint for consumers as they travel across the web, gauging consumer needs and interests without the need for any superfluous personal information.
As well as safeguarding anonymity, universal IDs also have the benefit of vastly streamlining advertising: where previously, clunky systems of hundreds of different, mostly incompatible IDs, slowed down each and every stage of the ad chain, we now need only just a handful of identifiers in order for consumers to navigate the web trouble-free.
The result benefits all parties: more relevant messages shared with the right consumer means less waste and increased value for brands, whilst consumers can benefit from a better online experience, safe in the knowledge that their data is totally secure. As for publishers, they can maximise revenue by earning the full value of their inventory, every time. Last but not least: This streamlined process helps the internet pay for itself, ensuring continued access to nigh-on unlimited content, for everyone. You can’t say fairer than that.
By James Patterson
VP, Client Services, EMEA & Global Operations
The Trade Desk