Home Marketer's Note Privacy Versus Relevancy: We Need To Change The Conversation

Privacy Versus Relevancy: We Need To Change The Conversation


joannaoconnelrevised“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 read this recent article on what I call the “privacy versus relevancy” conversation with some interest – it’s a topic that’s been on my radar, as it undoubtedly has for many of you, for a while now – and it got me thinking: how are we faring as an industry in increasing consumers’ understanding of what we are doing with respect to targeted digital advertising, and why?

I went looking for data, and found a couple things worth sharing (recognizing that there are literally thousands of data points out there), as they so clearly highlight the very heart of the “privacy versus relevancy” challenge we face as an industry. A recent TRUSTe survey* found that “52% of general internet users [and 69% of smartphone users] do not like being tracked by advertisers in order to provide more targeted advertising.” Seemingly in contrast, this study, which was conducted at about the same time, found that when given the choice between relevant versus irrelevant advertising in real-life situations, such as browsing an ad-supported website, consumers preferred relevant advertising.  The latter study’s authors surmised that perhaps consumers’ attitudes on the topic were influenced by how and when they were asked about it – “do you want to be tracked” versus “do you prefer relevant or irrelevant advertising as you’re browsing a website”?

Long and short, if we continue to tell consumers – implicitly or explicitly – that they are choosing between “privacy” and “relevancy”, they are going to choose “privacy”. I believe we’ve allowed the public debate to be about one versus the other, when in fact they don’t have to be antithetical.  Many of you are already engaging in advertising that is BOTH privacy-aware and relevant – in fact, having spoken to many marketers on this topic I know that you are, on the whole, wildly concerned about privacy and very careful when it comes to targeting. So, it strikes me that either consumers don’t understand that, or don’t believe you. Likelier, they just don’t know what you’re doing, or why you’re doing it.

If we can change the conversation from “privacy”/“no privacy” to one about the value of relevant, over irrelevant, advertising in a world where advertising is a basic reality – we might have a much more fruitful dialog with our current and future customers.

I recognize that this is an extremely complex, thorny issue that defies simple answers – certainly not that can be captured in one Marketer’s Note (I don’t envy marketers in the pharma world).  But here we are, at the beginning of a brand new year – perhaps making a commitment to get consumers more involved in the conversation should be every marketer’s new year’s resolution.

So let’s talk – stories, comments, questions – share them!


*this survey is chock full of interesting data. I suggest you check it out.

Follow Joanna O’Connell (@joannaoconnell ) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter. 

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