Expert Roundup: Google Delayed Cookies’ Death, But It’s Still Time to Embrace Privacy

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Data collection continues to be a topic with ample gravitational pull — so much so that we doubled down on it as an editorial theme this month.

To see what privacy innovators and adtech players are currently doing and thinking, we continue our roundup of industry voices. This is part of Street Fight’s monthly ritual in which we tap our community to provide insights on each month’s editorial theme. We’ll do this in four installments for the data topic, continuing here in Part III.

Street Fight’s August Theme: Doubling Down on Data

Daniel Barber, CEO & Cofounder, DataGrail, on Leaning into Privacy

The Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, coupled with a dramatic uptick in data breaches, kicked off a massive conversation on exactly what companies were doing with personal data. Governments got involved, bringing about GDPR and CCPA, and over time people started to ask more and more questions. CCPA and GDPR emerged, giving people the right to request their data, and delete or refuse its sale. Thanks to a requirement in CCPA, companies are required to report how many people exercised their privacy rights, and the disclosures prove that people are embracing these rights.

We took a moment to aggregate the CCPA disclosure data, and found that within Big Tech (Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon) alone, people exercised their rights to privacy 25 million times in 2020. People are demanding more control, not only in California, but all over the States, with new laws popping up in Virginia, Colorado, New York, and others.

It would be easy for businesses to approach this privacy era with concerns about how it will impact profit margins, yet we are seeing that brands that lean into privacy can win. We’ve come to a point where people have choice and are much savvier about what they want when it comes to their privacy, and will flock to the solutions that meet their privacy “bar.”

In fact, Apple started to aggressively drive a conversation about privacy, and as such, consumer awareness will only increase, driving more to exercise their privacy rights. They are pushing privacy as their competitive advantage. Specifically, Apple’s heavily-marketed App Tracking Transparency feature (and widely covered feud with Facebook) informs people about what’s happening to their personal data. By adding app notifications, Apple is forcing a conversation about privacy that was previously tucked away in policies and terms and conditions. Consumers will finally be asked — at the right time — how they want their personal data handled.

With all these new changes to Apple’s app platform, and Google’s move towards a cookieless world, we’ll see companies forced to adapt and finding innovative ways to communicate with their audiences. The heightened awareness could also put more pressure on government officials to develop a federal bill to protect user privacy.
As we look ahead, easy-to-use (and understand) privacy will become a standard. People will demand brands to have a “Privacy Center” where they can — with just a few clicks — change settings and trust that they achieved what they set out to do. Companies that proactively embrace privacy to add value to their brand will be the antidote to fear and risk — and they’ll win.

Vicki Brakl, Senior Vice President, Marketing, MNI Targeted Media, on the Commercial Reasons for Privacy

To level-set, respecting someone’s privacy and preferences is something B2B and B2C companies should always be doing. From what I see, many have protocols in place to self-regulate. Companies know that if they want people to share personal data, they need to be transparent on how information will be used. As consumers become more aware of the risks of data breaches and increasingly annoyed at receiving unwanted communication, they will shut you out if trust is violated.

While the majority of consumers crave more privacy, more often than not, they will share information if the company asking will, in turn, give them information that reflects their specific interests and needs. Through data, brands can elevate the customer experience and provide personal messaging at the hyper-segmented level. It all starts with respecting data privacy and preferences.

Kasper Skou, CEO and Co-Founder, Semasio, on Advertising’s Wake-Up Call

As the dust settles following Google’s announcement to delay third-party cookie deprecation, many marketers are wondering what’s next for the industry. But for most, it should be a wake-up call as to the future of data-driven advertising. The news should not deter us from moving beyond cookies as the main identifier for communicating with consumers the right way: explaining the quid-pro-quo of data for content and facilitating that equitable exchange through collecting informed consent through the value chain with the user at the center.

The elephant in the room is that 40% of internet users are not identifiable via cookies today, which begs the question: Why are we still relying on them? There are many existing solutions that get the job done while making the consumer an equal and informed partner in the ecosystem, such as Unified ID 2.0. Moving forward, marketers should take a hybrid approach, unifying user and page-level targeting and tapping into the potential of exclusion targeting to dynamically adapt to the percussive ecosystem changes we are headed for.

Kevin Whitcher, VP of Product, Enterprise Applications at DISQO, on the Privacy Era’s Big Reset

Google’s recent extension of their support for third-party cookies in Chrome prompted more than a few sighs of relief. However, the facts remain … identity systems for ad measurement and consumer path-to-purchase research are evolving. Just look at Apple’s App Tracking Transparency initiative and recent reports about how it’s already impacting media investment by shifting budgets to Android.

Marketers and their agencies seem to be 1) moving dollars to paths of lesser resistance, where they can still get some measurement of ad impact; 2) pinning hopes on the idea that a better, privacy-compliant adtech mousetrap for persistent identity will magically appear; and 3) investing to build their own first-party data resources, which can be much more difficult for some brand categories versus others.

A bigger reset is much needed — and inevitable — I think. This reset will focus on aligning with partners that can deliver consented, “zero-party” data that consumers willingly share. Transparency is essential in this approach, as is building trust with consumers so they opt-in to share information. In the near future, the value proposition for a data transaction with the consumer must be clear and compelling.

Bryan Melmed, VP, Insights Services, at on The End of Advertising’s Era of Innocence

Data is the new oil, they used to say. It made us feel so smart and prosperous that no one seemed to realize what a terrible metaphor this was. Oil is a commodity, with efficient markets that determine a fair price and a standard for quality. Data has none of these things. And while the oil we burn was created millions of years ago, data starts going bad within days.

Our era of innocence is over. It was too easy to imagine that brand marketing could itself be a market, with efficiencies wrung out through code and computing power. Technology isn’t a substitute for social science. No matter how much data you have, statistical rigor is still more important. It isn’t that Apple and the CCPA are bringing this era to a close — they just serve to emphasize how it was never sustainable to begin with.

Every company should strive for a unique relationship with its customers. When it comes to data, this means careful sourcing, thoughtful analysis, and strategic application. Data isn’t fuel; it’s intelligence.

Stay tuned for the next installment, when we’ll spotlight a fresh batch of voices…