Customer Data Privacy is just the tip of the spear. Consumers have higher expectations than most marketers are prepared to acknowledge or deal with – and catching up to those expectations is going to require nothing short of a sea change in AdTech.

Google recently announced that it plans to drop support for third-party cookies in Chrome by 2022. Seems like a smart thing to do in light of the regulatory climate that has been spawned by the misuse of targeting and personalization throughout the AdTech ecosystem. As part of their announcement to drop support for 3rd party cookies Google is also pushing for the utilization of their new “privacy sandbox” but is this really a good thing for brands and the customers they serve?

Justin Schuh, Google’s director of Chrome Engineering told TechCrunch on the removal of cookie support “This is our strategy to re-architect the standards of the web, to make it privacy-preserving by default”. Moreover, “… preventing fingerprinting, among other things, is also something Google’s team is working on” in an effort to generate new and improved privacy standards.

Google’s “Privacy Sandbox” is interesting – a new approach to provide for relevancy while sharing as little browsing history and personal data as possible. But is that really addressing the challenge, or is it thickening and heightening the walls around Google’s existing walled garden? Does it further position Google as the near monopolistic AdTech giant?

Under Google’s plan, advertisers need to submit their first-party data to Google’s Privacy Sandbox in order to target audiences for display campaigns. When the advertisers’ first party data is uploaded, it effectively becomes Google’s data from which they can glean insights that are utilized for further targeting and serving impressions to the already-over-hunted consumer – without any transparency to the consumer or the first-party data owner. So, while the Privacy Sandbox concept is worth some applause, the limitless ad stalking it fosters isn’t addressed – and Google uses the advertisers’ first party data to advance their own hunt.

Advertisers surely must recognize that consumers are tired of being tracked down and followed around the web like prey in a chase that began with a singular click.

Impression abuse is a thing.

Maybe Google, Facebook, and other AdTech platforms should consider simple impression frequency controls or provide for more robust, frictionless contact strategies. By implementing a series of sensible business rules designed to limit impressions served, brands would have more control over the “conversations” they are paying for, and thus be more able to gauge fatigue and other customer-side signals.

This practice is common throughout the MarTech landscape and is used to manage relationships and control costs, yet the “impression happy” AdTech space seems to care more about impressions served vs customer relationships.

Consumers are burned out from over-promotion from marketers and advertisers. Case in point – men’s clothier, Charles Tyrwhitt. I have bought clothes there, on an occasional basis, for years. A while back I made the mistake of clicking on one of their ads and as of this writing I’m now at 191 straight days of the Charles Tyrwhitt ad filling up my Facebook feed. 191 days!!!

As it currently stands, it’s difficult and impractical for brands to manage impression limits based on engagement (or lack thereof) so for the time being I remain loyal to my shop. But how many consumers understand the challenge advertisers face? Shouldn’t advertisers be able to stop ad serving after say, 30 days of no engagement?

The bottom line is that the privacy and security features coming in the Chrome browser are interesting, but they don’t consider the need consumers have for digital advertising noise reduction.

Channel fatigue is a thing.

Advertisers have new alternatives to reach consumers outside of the AdTech ecosystem. Transparency and trust can now be delivered by brand advocates and influencers, who are creating entirely new channels of access. Question is, when will advertisers begin exploring and leveraging these new options?

Customer data privacy and Security aside, the large advertising platforms are in the business of serving ads. And at their core they’re in conflict with consumer need and sentiment. They make more money by serving more ads. Simply put, the business model for the AdTech platforms has to change to align with consumer tolerances.

Advertisers need to take control of their own destinies. Data privacy legislation, continues to gain momentum as the AdTech abuse remains strong, this will result in a flood of deletion requests from empowered consumers…a death spiral for brands.

– Marc Shull is CEO at Marketing IQ, a consultancy to the AdTech and MarTech industries.

Here are a few simple ideas that could enable advertisers to gain some very significant control.

  1. Install Global Contact Rule Planning. Today, in order to place business rules around impressions served to consumers, advertisers have to deal with an insanely high amount of friction to do so – so they don’t. Global suppression rules limiting impressions would give advertisers the ability to better align themselves with consumer tolerances & thresholds through simple contact/impression management.
  2. First Party Data is the new gold. But what happens to your first-party data when it goes into Google’s Privacy Sandbox? Suddenly your first-party data becomes their second-party data. And they are going to be using that data for their modeling purposes first – and maybe yours secondarily – if at all. Maybe advertisers believe Facebook insights are gleaned specifically from Facebook user-generated content but that’s a bit like saying if we invite the fox into the hen house, all our eggs will still be there in the morning. At minimum advertisers should know what happens with their data. Each of the platforms stand to gain extensive analytical and optimization advantage by understanding:
    1. Number of times an address is uploaded
    2. Number of times an address appears from an advertiser over time and during what time
    3. Number of times an address appears on multiple lists coming from multiple advertisers
    4. Number of times device consistency or device change occurs

At minimum advertisers should know what happens with their data.

Advertisers should know if Amazon and other marketplaces utilize their submitted data to advance the advertiser’s business, the advertiser’s competitors – or the ad platform’s business. Others looking to capitalize on first-party data are now joining the fray.

With Merkle’s recent announcement of their new cookie Co-Op for retailers, they’ve essentially joined the AdTech bandwagon by enabling the abuse of the unaware consumer by activating their data without their consent.

– Kevin Bauer, CEO of Kessel Digital

  1. Can I have that back please? Defining what is acceptable to provide and what isn’t should be done at the advertiser level. And if the advertiser chooses to allow their data to into the sandbox then they should be able to get it back upon request. And they should be able to know if that data is being used for purposes they are uncomfortable with. If that’s too difficult then brands and platforms need to develop flagging mechanisms that allow for the protection of their data once it leaves their hands.

Data ethics need to become a thing.

Because consumers now understand the value of the data they provide, they now expect some value in return. Brands that cannot control frequency and duration of their ads run the risk of further alienating consumers and forcing them to look for alternatives that better meet their tolerances. Simply put, brands need to take control of their own destiny by building strategies that allow for the collection and assembly of data that advances their efforts while reducing their reliance on the big AdTech platforms’ limited-rules approach.

Business models such as AdTech that do not align with consumer wants and expectations will not foster lasting engagement. Over the years there has been a significant increase in consumer demand for greater flexibility, greater value; and more personal relevance in message type, frequency and channel utilization. An impression-led strategy with few contact rules can have the adverse effect of pushing consumers away from their brand loyalties. A one size fits all strategy is not sustainable where there is the expectation of a reciprocal value exchange.

– Terrilyn Tourangeau has been managing customer loyalty marketing for some of the world’s largest hospitality brands for almost 20 years.

Customer data privacy is no laughing matter and the shift in privacy compliance is real. We at TheCustomer don’t think enough is being done to accommodate the consumer’s best interests and what little is happening, isn’t happening fast enough. Further, we think it’s time for advertisers to step up and protect their customer relationships and their brand equity by advocating for sensible practices that align with the customer rather than acquiescing to the big AdTech providers and their limited-rules rules.

This article originally appeared in TheCustomer.

Photo by César Cardoso on Unsplash.