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    Increased scrutiny on privacy controls is the best development for marketers in years

    As consumers’ data and privacy concerns abound, digital marketers worry about what their next move will be. Pedro Mona, global director of martech and data for Assembly Global, says fear not: marketers will have the data required to reach consumers – and more effectively, yet.

    Digital marketing is going through a rude awakening. For years, we’ve had too much data about individuals, which we traded for the sole benefit of increased sales by identifying who is most likely to buy a product. But privacy, imposed by legislation or tech platforms’ (perceived) altruistic consumer protection initiatives, is here to stay. And while a lot of noise has been made about how this will take away the lifeblood of digital marketing, I beg to differ – this is the best development I have seen in the last 20 years, even though it may feel like Groundhog Day for a few marketers. 

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    Despite fears of the contrary, we will not be short on data because there is still so much of it. All that happens in a privacy-forward world is that data will fall into better-defined categories, each with its unique value and scale. This is an excellent development because it forces marketers to think about the whole ecosystem in which brands and products exist rather than harassing people to go and buy a product no matter where they are and what they’re doing.

    Let’s consider the types of available data, three of which are brand-side:  

    • Consented: consumers see a value proposition, such as discounts, promos or extra content, that makes them willing to give data to brands

    • Transactional: consumer transactions create another type of data, which must be treated differently from data purely volunteered by consumers, as order fulfillment does not automatically grant permission to market

    • Anonymized: aggregated data or data anonymized by deleting or encrypting personal identifiers

    And on a macro level, there is one more type of data:

    • Situational: this trend data tells us about demand and potential drivers of increased or reduced interest in products and services

    Over the last few months, I have heard increased calls for companies to “own your first-party data.” But not all brands can obtain all types of data. How does a call to own first-party data help a brand that sells low-consideration products via brick-and-mortar retail on street corners and gets 1,000 visits monthly to their site (primarily by their own marketing department)? Whatever consented, transactional or anonymized data they manage to collect will not be particularly transformative.

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    Nor do all brands need to know everything about consumers to market to them. Case in point: all the data in the world has not solved the problem of irrelevant ads on YouTube so far. I’ll be more receptive to an ad about guitar pickups than a re-marketing ad from a jeans brand, yet I’m more likely to be served an unskippable ad for jeans because the jeans brand happens to have my first-party data and permission to use it. This mismatch costs both sides, considering my lack of interest and the price tag for unskippable ads. 

    Not all brands can obtain all types of data, nor do they need it, but one thing that all brands share is access to macro insights. The future of digital marketing will require combining macro supply insight and the brand side’s consented, transactional and anonymized data. We can use this data aggregation to build a picture of who wants to buy our product, why they want to buy it, where they are looking for it and where the transaction ultimately takes place. And then we can build models that provide us with full situational awareness of the dynamics between the market, our brands and our products and services.

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    Macro supply insight + brand-side data = better marketing  

    This is the new equation. We can further combine our data and models, with the targeting available in each major tech provider, to identify the publishers and context in which our audiences are searching, learning and willing to buy things we sell. And we can use that data to enhance the messaging we deliver to consumers – moving beyond the lowest-common-denominator carousel ads that we tend to target today to more effective marketing, which will give us sharper insights into engagement and conversion. 

    The future of data is an aggregation of brand-side and macro-level datasets that will give business leaders and marketers a complete view of their brands with insight that can be ported agnostically across multiple platforms. The push for privacy controls will not take away from digital marketing; it will also push the innovation necessary to drive better content, higher relevance of ads and more creative messaging.

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    Pedro Mona is the global director of martech and data for Assembly Global, a marketing services company within the Stagwell network.

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