"Marketer's Note" is a weekly column informing marketers about the rapidly evolving, digital marketing technology ecosystem. It is written by Joanna O'Connell, Director of Research, AdExchanger Research.
I attended an eye-opening session on “the state of privacy” at this year’s Adobe Summit that reminded me of something I sometimes choose to ignore in all my excitement for what we can now do in digital marketing: In today’s world of hyper-targeting, building and managing robust profiles, delivering unified consumer experiences across the customer lifecycle, we’re standing on a shaky foundation, and most of us don’t really know it – what’s happening under our feet, what it means, and what to do about it.
The session, led by Adobe’s VP, Chief Privacy Officer, Associate General Counsel, MeMe Jacobs Rasmussen, was intended to help companies “navigate through the privacy fog.” The woman clearly knows her stuff. We took a look at a few hot topics in digital marketing through a privacy lens, though my attention was most captured by the discussion around cross device tracking and targeting, "Do Not Track," and the larger 3rd party cookie question.
- Cross-device marketing: This is a subject that’s heating up from a privacy standpoint, with the FTC beginning to pay attention and think about this. Fingerprinting (a blanket term used for a variety of approaches to associating multiple devices with a user – a term, by the way, lots of companies hate and try and steer clear of) can be rife with privacy pitfalls. While I understood the potential privacy concerns with “fingerprinting” in its various forms, I didn’t realize that there’s an increasingly bright light being shone on it by regulatory and enforcement bodies. Good to know.
- Do Not Track (DNT): Here we are, three years after the W3C work began, and we still can’t agree on a set of rules around DNT. Which is bad, according to Adobe: if DNT doesn’t succeed, we are likely to see more regulation, the cookie going away faster, etc. Either future outcome means limitations on what marketers can – or should – do, such as co-mingling 1st and 3rd party data, or using 1st party data for off-site purposes (like advertising). Didn’t know that. Also good to know.
- 3rd party cookies: Less a statement on the future of the cookie, and more one of being aware when 3rd versus 1st party cookies are dropped, this was a great reminder to me that the general understanding of this topic is still relatively low (I certainly won’t claim to be an expert). What’s important here is awareness: do you know what kinds of cookies your technology partners are dropping and why? Do you understand the implications of those choices, the applications of the different types, the privacy ramifications of one versus the other?
I have to admit, I left the session feeling worried and a little depressed – if I were an advertiser, I’d feel more concerned than ever about what is and isn’t ok in terms of targeted advertising outside of the walls of my own site(s), whether it’s reaching an individual consumer across devices with targeted ads, or using licensed third party data to augment consumer profiles, approaches that are becoming the lifeblood of sophisticated digital advertising.
That said, I refuse to concede that the answer must be, “don’t do it.” Nor is my intention to pick on Adobe. (Really, it’s the opposite – I appreciate that they are tackling this issue head on from a technological and business standpoint, and trying to educate their customers on what it all means.) I think that the ultimate answer, complex and nuanced as it may be, must begin with openness with consumers.
(And yes, I realize I’ve said this before – it’s something I feel very strongly about. In fact, I’m reminded of that research I found not too long ago which found that consumers DO in fact prefer relevant, over irrelevant, ad experiences when given the choice. Relevancy can be seen as a good thing if people get what’s happening.)
Thoughts, comments, send them my way!
*The only way this can happen is if your lawyers understand digital advertising. And they probably don’t. So become their friend and explain it to them.