The marketing industry is seemingly at an inflection point. Never before have so many companies used data to generate better experiences, outcomes, and financial results. Yet bad actors also have used data to their advantage, as the recent focus on Facebook and industry data breaches highlights. In recent years, it also appears that a data asymmetry has tilted the playing field – those with access to data are winning and those who are less sophisticated are losing ground. With so much potential, yet so much risk – how should publishers and platforms think about their path forward? How can they ensure they strike the appropriate symbiosis between business outcomes and consumer control?
We’ve spoken with more than 30 of our largest publishers and platform partners over the past week, and while all are planning to continue allowing the use of third-party data in the campaigns they support, many have asked for our thoughts on how they can do a better job of using data in ways that are responsible, ethical, and effective.
Here are four things that every publisher and platform should be doing immediately:
- Step One: Embrace Data. Data isn’t going anywhere. When used ethically, it transforms consumer experiences and business ROI – and that’s good for everyone. In fact, publishers who have been first to embrace data have gained disproportionate share and revenue. So above all, make it safe and easy for advertisers to create audiences using their data. Advertisers want to create seamless experiences for consumers across multiple touchpoints. They want the ability to define audiences from the permissioned first and third-party data assets they control, and then use those audiences everywhere. Brands have the best ability to protect the data under their control when data transfers happen through a neutral, independent party that uses a Safe Haven integration with rigorous security and process controls. Publishers that support Safe Haven integrations increase their ability to compete for advertising dollars and maximize protection for consumers.
- Step Two: Champion Data Ethics. Data can be used for good (consumer experiences, choice, insight, ROI) or – as we’ve seen in the media too often recently – for nefarious and illicit purposes. No ROI improvement is ever worth the brand damage that poor data stewardship can inflict. So protect yourself and your audience by adhering to ethical practices and by working only with experienced and ethical partners. Audit your data suppliers to ensure their data is ethically sourced. Do what’s right for consumers by making sure the third-party data that’s used to create audiences on your platform comes from reputable providers who ensure that all data has the proper permissions and rights for use. Perhaps lost in Facebook’s many communications is their final policy on data imports: they intend to allow marketers to utilize their data models built with first, second, and third-party data, so long as these marketers vouch for ethical data sourcing. This is smart. Quality matters, and you want to work with data providers – and advertisers – that have rigorous processes in place for vetting their data sources.
- Step Three: Support Transparent Measurement Practices. It would be bad for nearly everyone if the panicked response to data security were simply the construction of thicker walls and more black box solutions. We believe in the true democratization of data; by building visibility, interoperability, and connectivity into data utilization, everyone wins. Consumers gain increased control, disparate data sets can be combined to further improve data efficacy, and businesses can make informed decisions across all touch points. Rather than tilt the playing field to a select few, increase trust by allowing independent third parties to measure lift and viewability. Support secure analysis within a Safe Haven environment for campaigns that run on your platform – and allow measurement services providers to analyze performance across multiple publishers and channels.
- Step Four: Seize the moment! Times of confusion and uncertainty create an opportunity for the fastest responders to step up and grow market share. Rising CPMs and brand safety concerns have driven advertisers to pull back from some of the largest platforms and diversify their spend. Now is your time to act! Reach out proactively to advertisers and offer them the control, transparency, and reach for which they hunger.
Nobody wants a world of dataopolies, where only a handful of companies with proprietary data assets controls access to consumers. A world in which ethical data (first, second, and third-party data) can be comingled and used across boundaries democratizes the internet and creates a level playing field that supports growth and prosperity for everyone. Publishers and platforms can win by doing what’s best for consumers – ensuring data is ethically sourced, used with the appropriate safeguards, and delivered through secure integrations.