Zuckerberg, Cambridge Analytica and Marketing in a New Age of Privacy

Many years ago, I famously said, ‘You have no privacy, get over it’, which caused quite the controversy at the time. Fast forward to today and data privacy is even more so in the spotlight, but this time Mark Zuckerberg is the villain of the peace and I’m just the messenger!

The Cambridge Analytica un-sanctioned data sale and the massive attention that it has brought to data privacy issues is having some huge consequences for marketers. This scandal also comes on the eve of the introduction of stiff penalties for non-compliance of the EUs GDPR rules next month. Facebook has removed third-party data from its ad targeting solutions hitting advertisers hard who relied on third party data to personalize outreach. Social media analytics companies like Spredfast, Brandwatch, Sprinklr and others are up in arms and hurting because Instagram and Facebook have choked off the amount of data developers can access from their APIs. It is no coincidence that these actions have been rushed through before Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony to the Senate about the Cambridge Analytica situation on April 10.

What are the impacts of this and how should marketers react? However, you look at things, marketers are now going to have to develop new strategies to collect data on customers and personalize marketing messages.

First, this data privacy scandal is going to force marketers to be better at their craft, not worse. In its January 2018 research paper, ‘Publishers Warm to GDPR Benefits’, Digiday stated that 82 percent of marketers don’t believe third-party data is reliable. So, the fact that Facebook has cut the umbilical cord between some marketers and their dependency on often inaccurate third-party data must be a good thing. Likewise, some marketers also had an over-reliance on imprecise social media analytics to find audiences to target with advertising. Much of that data access is now being restricted and that may well be a trend that accelerates going forward.

All these changes mean marketers can adopt new techniques to make audience targeting more specific and appropriate, not less. Think about it, when marketers upload their own data to social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter today for audience targeting, they are using limited information sets that provide a sparse understanding of the audience. In result, marketers don’t know much about everyone’s character, motivations, intentions, interests, and preferences, and therefore they cannot truly personalize experiences.

The changes that are being instigated because of Cambridge Analytica, GDPR and the focus on data privacy will inevitably lead marketers to interactive brand experiences that collect data explicitly from consumers to better target their audiences. This enables better advertising ROI on social channels, or facilitates more relevant marketing offers, promotions and communications on other channels such as via email or SMS and allows more personalized website visits. The industry term for this deeper information, willingly and explicitly provided by consumers via interactive experiences, is called ‘declared data’. It’s a type of first-party data, because once you make a fair transaction with the consumer for their data, both explicitly and openly, you now have rights equivalent to ownership to that data.

Air New Zealand is one of the brands profiting from a focus on declared data. For example, it created an interactive experience that was distributed through paid and owned channels that helped consumers find their perfect destination in the U.S. The interactive quiz allowed entrants to select from the things that most excited them about a destination and at the end they were shown the perfect place for them to visit based on their interests. They were compensated with a chance to win a trip to this destination in return for sharing their personal interests and intentions in a clear transaction that offered value to both the company and the consumer. Those that didn’t win were automatically sent an email with a discount to buy a ticket to their preferred destination.

The experience was published through an interactive Google Double-Click ad and was embedded onto the travel sections of publishers as well as living on the Air New Zealand website. With an ROI of 38:1 it was an award winning declared data campaign. Over 100,000 people entered the campaign, providing detailed information about preferences, motivations and interests that could be used for custom audience targeting later. Over $78,000 sales were tracked from the cookie and over $5 million in sales were tracked within the first month via the automated email that was sent out to entrants with the personalized offer. The declared data captured in the campaign is a gift that keeps on giving.

According to a recent study by Accenture, 43 percent of U.S. consumers are more likely to buy from companies that personalize experiences. Interactive experiences can help power that personalization by helping marketers deliver a one-to-one conversation with consumers that is scalable. Reckitt Benckiser’s Air Wick can attest to this. The brand wanted to create an interactive marketing experience that allowed them to understand their consumers preferences for fragrances and packaging. Rather than leverage the traditional market research techniques, they created a campaign that allowed consumers to create their own virtual product, with a shareable media component that allowed entrants to share their creation with their network. The campaign was so successful they cloned it and are running it in five markets with over 190,000 people completing it and counting.

Whatever happens because of Zuckerberg’s testimony to the Senate, and any further tightening of access to third party data for ad targeting that may result because of actions of Facebook and others, the impact on marketers is already clear. Marketers need to concentrate on declared data and deploy brand experiences with value exchange that they can offer to consumers to better understand their interests, motivations and desires. Marketing and advertising will be better for it.

So perhaps today my quote should be amended to, ‘There is no privacy, so at least get something in return for it!’

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