Views from Ad Week: Data and Privacy- Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

Brad Gilbert, senior Manager in the *multiply team at Posterscope reports from Ad Week.
Before AdWeek started I wanted to write about data. I knew it was a big theme this year and personally I find it a constant source of inspiration, sparking creativity in planning. Post AdWeek I still do and so do plenty of others, with some common agreement from what I could see across the data focused talks this week. Some overwhelming themes emerging in these sessions were:

  • Data is a focus for organisations; e.g. FT and Telefonica now have board level Chief Data Officers
  • Data has changed and is changing the industry from planning through to testing
  • Data is an enabler for content and creativity; without it we are blind to insights and performance
  • Data can drive higher relevancy of ads and in turn performance
  • We need to use the right data in the right way not just data for its own sake
  • We should treat the data we have as if it were our own

That last point for me is the most important. As an industry we have made a lot of money the last few years off the fact that people don’t read the T&Cs that sign away their data. We’ve given consumers guidelines (read or not) on how we treat their data and who’s responsible for what but in turn we haven’t given guidelines to ourselves. My concern is that our use of data is at risk of becoming next year’s adblocking when (not if) consumers get wise to what information we are taking and how some are abusing data and their trust.
It was telling that in a room of advertising, media and marketing professionals at the data congress session when the audience was asked if anyone considered themselves data protection experts absolutely no-one raised a hand. What’s more concerning is that at the data stage, where you would assume the audience were interested in data, a good amount of the audience started to leave the data protection side of the talk. Yes it was a bit dry but it is damn important we consider ourselves data protection experts if as agencies we bang on about being data experts on the whole. Data usage and protection partner together as a package and denying this is lazy, myopic and reckless.
Of course the internet and the various services run from it are not all free, so value exchanges where we get something from the audience and they get to use a service will perpetuate as far as I can see. However, we need to ensure that we look beyond building clicks and views to focus on consumers as well as compliance. It’s not about what we can do but what we should do with the data and what we should do is use the data to help audiences not harm them. I consider spamming, excessive frequency of ads or any situation where ads cause distress or frustration to any degree harmful in this sense.
We have a great opportunity with data to do all the great and creative stuff that we know it can enable but we need to be ethical in our treatment of the data. We need to ensure the value exchange of data for services doesn’t go sour immediately after you click “I agree”. In practice this comes down to some very simple principles the following of which I think must be adhered to:

  • The Golden Rule – Treat others (and their data) as you would like (yours) to be treated
  • Provenance & Providence – Where does your data come from and how are you ensuring your customer’s data is being cared for post-campaign (feel free to ask suppliers)
  • Good planning – Map the customer journey and needs then work with data to add value and fulfil them (not just get more clicks)

To paraphrase Jerry Buhlman during the Winning in the Digital Economy session this week: data represents one of the greatest opportunities and threats to our industry. So, against a backdrop of evolving consumer behaviour and regulation (The General Data Protection Regulation, potential Brexit and with it unknown regulatory framework, different international laws etc.) let’s all get clear on how we should use data legally, ethically and in our campaigns.