Ad Relevancy vs. Consumer Privacy… What Will Marketers Do?

As you know, ReThinc is an advertising agency in Phoenix. There’s nothing private about that. You may also know the clients we work with, the markets we work in, the work we specialize in, and the fact that we all love dogs, pizza and beer from Four Peaks Brewery. There’s more you’d find out about each of us if you dug deeper. I’m sure our collective search history and social media profiles would turn up a lot more than what I just offered up.

Recently, privacy issues have come to the forefront in a very big way. I won’t waste your time rehashing why but we can thank our friends at Facebook for it. What happens next will have a big impact on a lot of industries, especially marketing and advertising.

Unfortunately, your lack of privacy provides the pathway for ads that are relevant to your interests being served to you. Today that’s somewhat limited to digital platforms but what’s not digital at this point and what’s not going to be digital in the future, right?

We use advertising platforms like Facebook to help us identify relevant audiences for our clients. We then target those audiences with super relevant ads and then track the conversion back to the website (or phone). We can also tell the client what their new customer did while they were on the site and, if necessary, re-target them with additional ads.

It’s super cool and we’re really good at it. I don’t harbor a lot of concern that it’s going away anytime soon either despite the recent spate of privacy backlash. A recent survey on consumer attitudes toward data privacy showed that 53% of respondents are not in favor or websites or apps using what they learn about them online to target ads.

But let’s be honest, 53% is not a huge majority and digital platforms with a bazillion dollars are not going to be denied. We live in a society where profit trumps a lot of things. (I think there’s a pun in there somewhere.) Ad relevancy represents progress and the ability to make money. Our free market economy has a way of figuring these things out and we as a society have a very short attention span on issues that bother us.

That being said, I do not think Facebook, Google and others will continue to indiscriminately compromise our privacy. Facebook is moving in that direction already and purposefully making lots of noise doing so. That will be a game changer for us and for marketers in general. It is my opinion that the ability to deliver and the desire to receive relevant ad messages will not be deterred.

As a consumer I understand that I will be subjected to advertising. It is a benefit to me to be advertised to by companies when I have an interest in their products. It’s even more beneficial if I would be served ads based on where I happen to live, what I do for work, and how I like to play.

In addition to this, ads pay for things that I enjoy on television, on the radio and on my computer. I can choose to be exposed to ads and enjoy these things for free or I can pay money and eliminate the advertising.

Sound familiar Pandora? Know what I mean Netflix?

I’m willing to bet that a vast portion of the 53% of respondents who are not in favor of apps or websites using information from their visit would feel differently if they suddenly had to pay a fee. I mean pay walls are nothing new but I hate them the same way I hate narrow-minded racists, animal cruelty, and people who wash their windshields in traffic as they drive down the street.

I digress.

Moving forward, it is inevitable that we are going to be inundated with opt-ins, consent forms, and disclosures that are going to interrupt our online lives in ways that we’ve heretofore never seen. I don’t perceive this as an impediment to the business we do as much as I see it as an opportunity. Our services and expertise will be in more demand as the market continues on the path to ad relevancy while respecting privacy rights that add a greater degree of complexity to how that’s accomplished.

The ultimate goal of total ad relevancy and message personalization will have just been dealt a setback. I’m not wholly averse to it either as perhaps it’s best that we be mindful of privacy issues as we move forward. As the owner of a digital ad agency in Phoenix I tell our clients every day that the size of the audience reached is not as important as the relevancy of the message served. That is the direction our industry is heading and we’re happy to be leading the way.