The quest for greater performance has led digital advertising players to neglect their consumers. Rather than indulging in the fantasy of AI, brands, publishers and adtech now face a crucial and human challenge: users have woken up and lost trust in the model that’s been imposed on them.
Over the past two decades, as brands and publishers have thrown themselves headlong into digital advertising, the consumer was being repeatedly duped. They were led to believe that the Internet is free when, in reality, users have been unknowingly paying with their data. To top it off, this has been done without their informed and explicit consent.
Brands and publishers have become the accidental perpetrators of this system. They hadn’t been given an alternative solution, given the lack of viable options to address both their business and user privacy matters. Most of the technology partners they work with have only recently discovered the complexity of the regulations regarding personal data! Very often the data used for advertising purposes is based on forced or ambiguous, untraceable consent. This model has become counterproductive. Online advertising is perceived as intrusive, and consumers have lost faith in publishers that collect data without their consent and in the brands that use this data to target them.
This short-term approach is contrary to the honest and trustworthy relationship companies wish to build with users.
But all is not lost. This dying model can still take a turn for the better. Consumers might just be the saviours. They are conditioned by the one-click, on-demand access they have to a world of highly personalised services (payments, transport, news, etc.) through their mobile phones. Consumers now demand the same level of control over their digital advertising experience. This means being able to express a clear choice about how their data is shared, and having the guarantee that this choice will be respected. The Cambridge Analytica scandal and documentaries such as Netflix’s The Great Hack have largely contributed to this awareness. It is now up to our ecosystem to respond. Consumers understand the value of their data. They demand and deserve full transparency about what data is collected, by whom, how, when and for what purposes, as well as the ability to easily change their preferences at the tap of a screen.
The idea is simple: prioritise consumer choice and consent over data collection. The only data that is truly valuable, for publishers and brands alike, is data that the consumer agrees to share through traceable and trusted consent. It's the only way for our industry to move to an advertising model driven by the consumer, as opposed to the historical imposed and data-driven advertising model. This is without a doubt the biggest transformation to ever happen to our entire industry. The winners of this shift will be the organisations who rely on advertising driven by user choice.