It’s currently the calm before the perfect marketing storm. With the phasing-out of third-party cookies on the horizon, many people have been asking: what’s the future of data and privacy? How disruptive will these changes be? And, with such huge challenges ahead and an imminent cookie-less future pending, is the end actually, you know, nigh, or something else entirely...?
In our latest webinar in collaboration with WP Engine, Hallam explored the future of data-privacy compliant campaigns and I joined to hear what fellow marketers can start doing today.
Here are my top takeaways (met with terrible music pun subheadings – top marks if you can guess the originals!)
Boom! Shake, shake, shake the gloom
Julie Reid, Hallam’s Head of Strategy, delivered a keynote exploring how to create campaigns that inspire, engage and connect – all whilst respecting your customers’ privacy.
So, is it all doom and gloom? Delving into the problems behind the headlines and how we, as an agency, are helping our clients to navigate these new (private) waters, Julie explained that, despite the naysayers, the outlook is still bright.
She said: “For us, it feels like we’re poised on the edge of disruption. But I’m personally excited by this: with the return to marketing fundamentals, with a renewed focus on customer research, with data used as a tool – not as an end in itself. The path back to relevancy utilises exceptional experience, curated data – with benefits to both the end-user and to businesses – and with strategic transformation, making sure you’ve got the right people, technology and processes in place.”
Like a stat outta hell
In 1992, a poll asked Americans to rank professions based on trust: advertising came second-to-last. Today, not much has improved – in fact, for an industry built around appearances and brand identity, the stats aren’t pretty.
Today, 15% of people surveyed said that they enjoy ads, down from 30% thirty years ago (Kantar) and 81% of people believe the risks of sharing data with a brand outweigh the benefits (Pew). So, the question is, what value can marketers add? Or, what value exchange – where people instead see the benefits outweighing the risks – can we offer?
“Customers are willing to share data if they get something from it,” Julie explained. “Whether it’s convenience, speed, access to an exclusive event or to information that they want, like a research report or a whitepaper, there are things we can offer to customers that they hold value in the moment.”
Hallam’s Experience Director, Kier Humphreys, agreed. He said: “I’d add that people don’t often understand why you’re collecting data, what you’re doing and what you’re doing next. If you walked up to someone in the street and asked for their phone number, there’d have to be a damned good reason why you’d give them that. However, I’ve previously worked with comparison sites; you know the minute you put data into their website that you’re doing to get calls from other businesses but the payoff is that you have easy access to comparison information. (Marketing) has to be a real conversation, thinking about the human on the other end, when you’re collecting that data.”
I’m picking up good foundations…
Many of us who work in marketing will have either heard – or used – the phrase “reach the right people, at the right time, with the right messages” (there’s no judgement here – I mean, I’ve seen whole campaigns built around that concept…) However, if we can’t track “the right people”, how can we target users?
“I don’t want to be facetious, but it’s the same that we used to do ‘before’, explained Kier. “It’s about knowing your audience, knowing their habits and needs, and finding a way to centre their consciousness. It’s our job as an agency to devise a strategy and creative idea that achieves that. The “right people at the right time” aim can be a weird one – it’s done using information from multiple data points and it’s not always right. There’s a lot of signals that are right but also that are wrong; for example, according to Google, I’m interested in pick-up trucks and school supplies. Well, the school supplies were because of a client I previously worked with and not because it’s something I want to purchase – and I have no idea about the pick-up trucks!
“We have to accept that even the biggest data collectors aren’t always right. We have to go back to first-party data that doesn’t rely on someone else’s data assumptions. Essentially, you have to prove that you’re worthy of the customer’s attention in a world full of noise. The foundations of marketing haven’t changed. That’s where people should be focusing.”
If we need to grab attention in an otherwise noisy world, what can we do to increase the number of people enjoying a marketing campaign? And then, in a marketing environment where it’s going to be trickier to measure success, how do we deliver against that campaign?
Kier said: “Firstly, when we talk about the Golden Age of advertising, we must remember that there wasn’t as much advertising and it didn’t follow you around wherever you went: you remember things like the Smash robots but we don’t talk about the ones that follow you around the internet. I’ve had someone tell me, with a straight face, that marketing is dead because of these data and privacy changes. However, it’s not that we can’t measure campaigns, it’s that we’ve got used to measuring the wrong things. Maybe they’re the wrong metrics and maybe they’re even the wrong campaigns.
“This has all led to hyper-targeting – that’s when it becomes noise and when people get fed up. It’s creative magic that made ads stand out in the past. Today, we’re not taking risks or coming up with crazy ideas that could create that reaction because they don’t fit into a spreadsheet.”
Don’t look track in anger
It’s all well and good seeing the positives but, for anyone fretting about where to get started, Jonathan ‘Cat’ Catton is the man with the answers; as Paid Media & Insights Consultant at Hallam, Cat lives for tracking and analytics. So, knowing the privacy changes on the horizon, what is Cat doing both now and in the not-so-distant future?
“The first thing is: don’t panic!” Cat explained. “That’s not to say you shouldn’t care, but the point is that we can see what’s coming – and it will come. So, what I’m doing differently right now isn’t much except for preparing for the future. Tracking people is not that hard; cookies are the easiest way to do it but, if you are Google, for example, you can track people whenever – whether they’ve got cookies or not. The reality is that people will still be able to track, say, conversions, but the hard thing will be reaching out and targeting new people.
“The main thing I want to encourage people to do now is to revive your first-party data, such as email lists. Over the last few years, we’ve neglected those as instead we can target people who are interested in, say, garden fences. So, whilst you’ve still got access to the data, build up your email lists so you’ve already got it sorted before the new changes come into place.”
Tech it easy
So, you’ve revived your data – now what? In our webinar, we heard vital tech insights from Daniel Salt, Solutions Engineer at WP Engine, a technology company that provides solutions to help their customers provide apps and WordPress sites.
Daniel said: “Many of our customer conversations are around GDPR and security concerns, with customers asking how can we best secure their data and what solutions do we have? In terms of data that’s stored on a customer’s platform, (our solution ensures) this is all encrypted, which protects all customer data that’s either being transferred or stored. One step further is to provide other layers of security; every day, 109 million hacks are blocked by our platform. Whichever solution provider you opt for, as a starting point, always do a review of how data is stored.
“The best advice is to make sure you have an effective strategy for managing on-site data. A regular schedule is important; we do provide some very secure solutions that make sure the data stored is “legal and necessary” but as a starting point, businesses should look at what (the data) is, where it’s held and where it’s come from.”
With every revolution comes a manifesto and with every problem comes various angles that provide different solutions. So, with the imminent changes to how the marketing sector currently operates, where do we go from here?
Julie said: “The headlines might make it feel like the sky is falling – but it’s not. We’re faced with choosing between the bare minimum or we can lead the way. We have a chance to regain relevancy, trust, authority and connection but to achieve heights like that, we have to start now. We can lead with a privacy-first mentality.”
Kier agreed. He said: “We’re not paid to do the easy thing. I think the cookie changes are great for the industry. We can still deliver results without cookies – we just might have to work a bit harder to show the value of our work. But I’m upbeat about this – brands will see the benefit of these changes.”
So, for marketers around the world, what’s our new mantra?
Julie said: “Be bold. Take calculated risks. Tap into what customers want and need. This is where it gets exciting.”
For more information, check out our Data & Privacy Hub, which has lots of great content about the recent changes.