Stanford University has thrown its hat in the ring along with heavyweights Microsoft, Mozilla and Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) in the battle royale for consumer privacy. Stanford’s contribution is a Cookie Clearinghouse that “will publish block-lists and allow-lists based on objective, predictable criteria.”
Consumer trust is a key element in achieving a 1:1, waste-free advertisingSM environment with shoppers, and creating an impartial gatekeeper for cookies is a step in the right direction towards consumer choice and privacy. It’s not the advertisers, ad exchanges or even the browser companies deciding what makes a “good” cookie and what makes a “bad” cookie…but it’s also not the consumer. Unless advertisers take proactive steps it’ll be someone else—like Stanford—telling consumers how their digital ad environment will interact with them.
Understandably, advertisers don’t like it. Advertisers feel like they’re getting squeezed out and their CPMs will suffer. But what can we do? Consumers are becoming a louder voice in these matters as online privacy, choice and control become more prominent in our collective consciousness.
Let’s start by looking at what we should not do: we should not participate in a cookie arms race. This cannot become a cold war of Hide and Seek. Advertisers may win some battles on the technology front and learn to get around the browser defenses, but there is no way we can win that war. We’d be fighting for the wrong side—we’d be fighting the consumer, not the browsers or Congress; we’d be the bad guy.
Advertisers need to get ahead of the game and stake claim to the relationships we have with our consumers. Third-party groups like Stanford don’t have a relationship with the consumer—but advertisers do. If we leverage existing relationships to be proactive participants in an opt-in, 1:1 marketing model, no one will be able to tell us how to advertise because our digital marketing will already be directed by the consumer.
Some version of Do Not Track is imminent—whether it’s a Cookie Clearinghouse, regulations placed on the industry by Congress or something else entirely. The consumers will continue to demand increased online privacy and those demands will be met at the expense of advertisers’ ability to mine information and target audiences through online behavior. But advertisers can turn this discussion on its head—and ultimately create more brand loyalists and increase conversions—by embracing a voluntary 1:1 relationship with consumers.