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Handle your data with care, or you might end up in court

by Chris Howatson

For all the waxing lyrical around data you would be forgiven for thinking that our industry is lavished with information systems that rival the NSA. Whilst in reality we are at best using sticky tape and glue to piece together disparate data systems in an attempt to stitch together a single identity.

A phone. Work laptop. Home computer. Four browsers. An ipad you share with the family. A smart TV. A radio streaming service. And any number of email addresses. Very few of which we can match to a person whose name, address we know. Let alone try and figure out what they explored, influenced or actually purchased. Delicately put, it’s a bit of a head fuck.

But fast forward 5 years from now and the marketing world will be a very different place.

The more sophisticated businesses will know who their customer is, the next behaviour to deliver the greatest EBIT impact, and most transformationally, the exact moment and channel with which to influence this behaviour. All media inventory will be programmatic, removing the need for pre-committed inventory and underhanded deals. Creative will be versioned dynamically refocusing agency resources on ideation and optimisation, away from production. The most important role in the CMO will be that of the journey manager. And the best agencies will be those who manage the entire customer lifecycle, meaning we’ll see the reintegration of message and moment under a single roof.

Why do I believe so strongly in this future? Because in the sophisticated pioneering businesses it already exists today.

Data has always been, and will continue to be a commercial advantage. The start up ‘unicorns’ attract billion dollar valuations on the potential they provide our industry to better target and service customers.

As Martin Kiln from Gartner so eloquently puts it; Amazon knows what you buy, Google know what you want to know, Facebook knows where you live and Apple knows enough to make the government envious.

But whilst all this rich information exists, how often do we consider the ethics of using this information? At what point does our job move from persuasion to invasion? Just because the information exists, does it mean we have the right to use it?

It’s like taking a peek in the medicine cabinet of that new guy/girl you just started seeing. Technically it’s not spying. The cabinet is right there and you are just so curious. Why waste your time and money on more dates if it turns out they’ve got an incurable fungus? Best to know early and cut your losses.

It’s the same with marketing. No-one wants to waste money placing compelling and engaging messaging in front of the wrong person. Or missing the mark completely with the message because we didn’t really understand the person.

The question of ethical use of data has become all the more pertinent, because now we can actually use the information, not merely collect it.

7 in 10 CMOs are investing in mar and ad tech over the next 12 months. Adobe is building a cross device cookie pool that will allow us to effortlessly match the same person across device, every publisher is making it easier to pass back second party data and the likes of Quantium and Acxiom are gifting third party insight.

Most would argue that in Australia, we have reasonably stringent data privacy regulations. We have clear data collection policies and strict rules around being able to disclose to individuals how their data was collected. And interpretation of these rules are a simple phone call away. Contact our industry bodies, the AFA, ADMA and MFA are equipped and willing to provide advice.

But how well are we conforming to these rules?

Take the following scenario, a scenario anyone advancing their data and technology enabled contact strategy would have encountered.

User 0001 exists in your DMP for buying programmatic advertising. They are also linked to your CRM system where you hold their name, address and other purchasing history. You routinely extract the data for this user from the DMP and match to your CRM system to measure the effectiveness. At some stage you decide to buy some data in the DMP to append to User 0001, which you then use to purchase some display advertising. Because technically that information is anonymous you don’t worry about storing any record of where that data came from.

Unfortunately, something as simple as that could get you in a lot of trouble. Whilst the information was used in an anonymous format – you didn’t know their name or any other personal information – the fact that it can be re-identified to an individual means that that standard regulations for data collection apply. So if that person ever asks how you got their information and you can’t tell them, you might find yourself in court.

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