Chance to rebuild ad data trust
Europe's new General Data Protection Regulation is less than a month away. Advertisers, online platforms and publishers are beavering away to get their act together.
But it hasn't always been clear how European citizens feel about the opportunity to better control their data. Does GDPR offer an opportunity to take control, or is it hassle they'd rather not have? Are EU citizens happy to trade privacy for convenience?
The latter seems to be the case according to research from the UK's Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and Acxiom. This research on consumer attitudes to privacy indicates a slow but steady increase in the acceptance of data exchange as part and parcel of being online.
The DMA broke its subjects down into three segments. They found that the number of people willing to make trade-offs based on the services offered for their personal information has fallen since 2012 from 53pc to 50pc. The number reluctant to share any data has fallen from 31pc to 25pc. While those who don't care who tracks them online has increased from 16pc to 25pc. Those concerned about the issue of online privacy has fallen from 84pc in 2012 to 75pc.
Consumers increasingly regard their personal data as an asset to be used to their advantage. This means data exchange in return for digital products or services. The proportion of consumers that hold this sort of consumer capital mindset has increased from 40pc in 2012 to 56pc. Among 18-24 year-olds, this mindset is 61pc.
But the study also found growing dissatisfaction around transparency and control of data - 86pc want control over how their data is collected and used. In 2012, 56pc felt disempowered as to how companies collected their data. It's 65pc now.
Consumer attitudes to personal data and the onset of GDPR should be seen as an opportunity for progressive publishers, platforms and advertisers to increase trust and transparency. But many are going the opposite direction. Take Facebook: its new terms and conditions are longer than before and pave the way for facial recognition and tracking users who don't have a Facebook account.
So it's refreshing to find someone trying to do it right. The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) represents companies that account for 90pc of global marketing spend. It's calling on brands in all markets - not just Europe - to rethink their approach to data. "Just as 2017 was the year of media transparency, 2018 is the year of data transparency," said David Wheldon, President of the WFA and chief marketing officer at Royal Bank of Scotland. "Just look at the recent outcry over Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. GDPR is going to flip control back into the hands of consumers and hold brands accountable in a way they've never been before. The marketing community needs to go back to thinking first and foremost about the people behind the data, their expectations and their rights."
So the WFA is calling for a revolution in how brands think about data; it should be people-first rather than data first. And like all revolutions, it's got a manifesto.
It states that strong governance is needed to ensure data is ethically and transparently sourced, and securely stored. Consumers should have full control over how their data is stored and used, intuitive, visual controls, rather than long impermeable terms and conditions, it says.
And it states that there should be accountability and transparency throughout the data supply chain. Users should be able to track how their data is shared among digital advertisers. This is next to impossible at the moment, given the murky programmatic supply chain and sheer weight of trackers that follow users around the web.
But the most interesting element of the WFA's manifesto is data minimisation. If they don't need it, they shouldn't collect or store it. Given the risks and overheads around storing citizens' data this 'less is more' approach makes smart business sense, as does the whole manifesto.
Consumers may be happy to share data for improved products or services, but they look to trusted brands to safeguard their privacy. The WFA has recognised that businesses that treat data transparency as a competitive advantage will build more trust. So while the interactive advertising bureau, Facebook, Google and others tie themselves up in increasingly complex terms and conditions, frameworks for managing consent and arguing over who's responsible for controlling data, it's good to see that some advertisers have consumers' best interests at heart.
Where others are zigging, they're zagging. That's always been a sign of good advertising.
Sunday Indo Business