If there was ever a time for all marketers to seriously rethink the parameters and prerequisites of the data they employ, it’s now–when regulation such as the GDPR and more recently, the CCPA, exist to protect consumers. Their aim is to curtail the habits of ad-tech firms and publishers that aren’t acting above board when they gather data from consumers. The good news is, there’s one essential spoke in the data-safety wheel that can ensure the fewest problems: traceable and trustworthy consent.

Marketers must demand it–along with some proof of consent–and vendors need to ensure they get it. Simply put, if consumers sign off on knowing their data is being used, and especially how, then no marketer should be worried about incurring fines or breaking the law. Given the slow and steady disappearance of the use of the cookie–long the primary means of identifying the user–third-party data is falling out of favor across the marketing world. Let the consumer choose to share their information, and you’ll see the quality of that data improve immediately.

Too often, however, it goes down this way: third-party data is harvested by a platform or ad-tech firm without the consumer’s explicit and informed consent. The company will either collect the information without asking for the consumer’s permission, or it will force consumers to agree to data collection in order to access the company’s offering–an all-or-nothing choice.

This wouldn’t be a huge problem on its own. Marketers could simply choose to work only with data-compliant vendors, leaving the bad actors to wither and shutter. The problem is, the online advertising ecosystem is as complex as it is inscrutable, with hundreds of distinct ad-tech firms collecting, buying and selling consumer data with little regard for privacy laws. By the time the data eventually finds its way to a marketer’s team, it’s been transacted dozens of times, so that the marketer has no way of tracing the data’s point of origin, much less whether it was consented. That makes it far less trustworthy. 

In this new regulatory-heavy environment, such opacity won’t fly, particularly when every dollar a brand spends is being scrutinized by the CFO. Fines are never a good thing, but they’re an especially bad look right now for CMOs. Traceable and trusted consent, however it’s gathered, avoids all these pitfalls. So let’s get going with insisting on both, starting today.

Learn more in my recent Forbes article.

Digital advertising is undergoing a fundamental transformation. It’s moving into an era of integrity, built on a foundation of trust. User trust is a competitive advantage and a pathway to sustainable business growth.

It is imperative to ensure the media upon which your ads are shown is brand safe, but you must also ensure the data you use for advertising is safe. In this post on Tech Crunch, “Unethical practices are out; Consumer consent is in” you will learn:

  • The key to ensure data safety for your business
  • Three major steps on how to prevent the spread of toxic data

User data is important to serve more relevant, customized ads, but at the same time, user data is very personal. Therefore, users need to be given the choice and control over which data they are willing to share or not and for which purposes. Failing to do that, brands will destroy user trust and eventually their business.

Ad-tech firms had it pretty good during the first two decades of the new millennium as the digital marketing world exploded with the advent of social media. Growth charts took on hockey-stick dimensions as the major platforms grew their audiences and ad-tech gathered swaths of data–very often without users’ knowledge or consent. That is, until GDPR was enacted in Europe in 2018, and California this year introduced CCPA–two sets of rules and regulations designed to protect consumers from data misuse. 

Marketers have generally feared the onset of these rules–in part because they will upend longtime business practices and inhibit easy access to data that guides their digital campaigns. But I’m very bullish on the fact that consumer data regulations are good for digital advertising. First and foremost, any ecosystem built on unsustainable foundations (in this case, consumer data taken and used without consent) has, by default, paved the way for its own demise. As consumers spend more time on the internet, brands that want to connect with them in a sustainable manner need to act in their best interests; privacy regulations provide the standard by which to do so. 

Regulations will require many brands to change–in terms of how they collect and use consumer data for advertising, and how they ensure that all their ad-tech partners are compliant. That second part will prove most difficult, considering just how much of the ecosystem is built on dubious data collection or data-use practices. 

But the benefits of regulation outweigh the drawbacks in three significant ways in what it ushers in, recently I wrote a post on Forbes “Why Regulations Will Be Good for The Digital Advertising Industry” discussing: 

  • Consumers demand and deserve more control and knowledge over how their data is used
  • Education and knowledge empowers them to agree to a value exchange with data gatherers
  • Trust built up most often results in data that’s trustworthy and reliable.

The time is now to clean up your act. It can only help.