It’s been a busy few weeks for the advertising industry. The consumer data privacy debate is very much alive, with Cambridge Analytica giving us an excellent example of what gathering and using data irresponsibly (via Facebook) looks like. Facebook, in turn, has responded with new restrictions on targeting.
In an attempt to save face, Facebook has eliminated its Partner Categories i.e. the tool that allows advertisers to target consumers using information collected from third-party data brokers. This type of data captures consumers’ offline behaviors like their socioeconomic status and political and religious affiliations. Further, Facebook has announced plans to introduce a certification tool for their Custom Audiences feature, which would demand that emails used for targeting have been acquired with the user’s permission.
Marketers aren’t too concerned, though. With bits and pieces of information trickling out, we may not fully know the way this will affect how we market (if at all). However, Facebook is not in jeopardy of becoming obsolete--it remains one of the most valuable platforms for marketers with an unprecedented reach. Yes, consumers may remain more vigilant online for the next few weeks and months. But, now we’ve opened up a conversation about what’s an acceptable (and unacceptable) standard for collecting and using personal data.
We have an opportunity to educate customers on how their data is being used and why it may be to their benefit. For example, who doesn’t love when Netflix gives suggestions on what to binge watch next based on previous watching behavior? And without location sharing, we wouldn’t have the luxury of ride sharing services and keeping tabs on the driver to confirm they’re actually as close as they say they are. Consumers appreciate and expect a customized digital experience these days.
As marketers, we love data. As consumers, we covet privacy. With great data comes great responsibility to use it ethically--which benefits everyone, ultimately. Marketers get to learn about people on an individual level, and consumers get a more seamless, customized digital experience. There’s no easy solution to keep everyone happy, and it’s going to be a learning curve to establish ground rules for what gets the green or red light when it comes to consumer data and privacy. But we’re all learning what that conversation looks like together. So, for now, let’s all just “Keep Calm and Advertise On.”
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