Gartner’s Andrew Frank: ‘We Feel Betrayed Because Big Data Let Us Down’

Privacy’s growing impact on targeted advertising is creating unprecedented challenges for marketers.

One underlying reason contributing to the stress: Marketers feel betrayed by big data, said Andrew Frank, VP distinguished analyst for Gartner.

“Big data was supposed to give us this scalable customer intimacy, this ability as marketers to know exactly what to sell to somebody at the right time, the right place, with the right formula,” Frank said Wednesday at AdExchanger’s Programmatic I/O conference in New York.

Instead, big data increased the regulatory burden on marketers, reinforced a data oligopoly and corrupted media markets with bad data and traffic. Most consequentially, big data undermined consumer trust and with it, the ability for marketers to advertise to people who show interest in their products, without explicit consent. Marketers have gone all-in to acquire the tech components needed to accomplish this capability.

“Obviously, we need new rules,” Frank said. “And the problem is that we don’t know where these rules are going to come from. The question of who will make the new rules is, I think, the fundamental problem facing us today.”

Frank described three bases with the clout to make new rules: legal (in the form of new and existing regulations); the market (large brands, publishers and marketing clouds trying to wield influence); and platform players (large tech players, such as Apple and Google, which are already writing rules for the rest of the ecosystem).

He proposed frameworks for three potential futures, depending on which of these bases gains the most influence. While it’s not possible to satisfy all three power bases, Frank advised marketers to pick two out of three and think about the different worlds that could emerge if two become more powerful than the third.

Today, a walled garden world wields the most power, Frank said. So marketers need platform-based attribution and optimization expertise, while also ensuring their targeting initiatives don’t rely so much on personal data.

If the walled gardens lose their power, Frank said, a world based on a consent economy could emerge, which would require brands to invest in consent and preference management systems and develop best practices.

Finally, if regulatory efforts settle down, Frank said, marketers could double-down on testing and machine learning, while also creating centers of excellence focused on identity resolution.

Planning for these divergent possibilities requires marketers to design flexible systems and anticipate different scenario probabilities. If marketers do this, they will be able to change priorities quickly when things happen.

Regardless of the outcomes, the most impactful thing marketers can do now is to prepare, Frank said. “It’s very important to think about using scenario planning to cope with uncertainty and to try to use it as a way to reduce stress so that if someone asks you, ‘What the heck are we going to do about this privacy mess,’ you can say, ‘We see several scenarios, and we’re going to plan for all of them because we don’t really know what’s going to happen.’”

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1 Comment

  1. I have to say it is not the “big data” let us down, it is the greedy players in the ecosystem to blame for the current state of data-driven advertising. Legal and walled gardens are not going anywhere. Marketers should protect themselves from developing flexible systems, processes and be prepared for possible changes in the ecosystem.