If you’ve worked in advertising for more than 5 years, you’ll recall the countless meetings, sales pitches, and industry events, which referenced the “Year of the Mobile”. And chances are you probably won’t remember which calendar year it coincided with.

Even referencing the confusion about when the “Year of the Mobile” began feels just as exhausting.

What proceeded the “Year of the Mobile”, was an industry seemingly obsessed with Zodiac similes, declaring each new calendar year as the “Year of the Next Big Thing”. That was until, the “Year(s) of COVID”.

Tomorrow’s World

There is a reason for this trip down memory lane. The programmatic team attended an event last week, put together by our friends at Incubeta, and hosted at Google’s Kings Cross HQ.

Image Credit | Incubeta

The theme was “Tomorrow’s World”, and it didn’t fail to give us a big hit of nostalgia – at least for those of us who were alive to remember the TV series.

Before you continue, it’s definitely worth watching how Tomorrow’s World investigated how we might work from home in the future, way back in 1979.

Aside from the motifs, the content had a big focus on advertising in tomorrow’s world, most notably around privacy challenges. At the event, we heard from Adam Taylor, Google’s Privacy Lead in EMEA, and he spoke about the opportunity for growth with responsible marketing.

This proceeded to a fireside chat involving M&S Senior Media Manager for Measurement and Transformation, Fran Darvill, as well as James Sleaford and Kate Jervis both from Incubeta.

They focused on GDPR, cookie deprecation, and the future of digital advertising. All the speakers gave great insights into how advertisers can get ahead with their own privacy challenges.

Too Many False Dawns for a Continuation of the Zodiac Trope?

Now, we’re not going to declare 2023 to be the “Year of Privacy”, but the industry is in a very different place compared to how we’ve previously approached such seismic shifts.

As James Sleaford put it during the fireside chat, “the paradigm shift towards mobile never stressed anyone out”. And he’s right, the “Year of the Mobile” did end up being a bit Y2K.

In reality, mobile advertising happened rather organically with minimal fuss and friction. The old and the new didn’t dramatically crash together and cause untold consequences to those criminally underprepared, as was previously predicted.

But as the panel went on to discuss, GDPR has changed how the industry evolves. In days gone by, we took seismic industry change into our stride and ran with it, we didn’t always get it right, but we were unafraid to adapt and were quick to do so.

GDPR has slowed us down, at least with how we have approached privacy challenges, the one area where it would be handy if we acted a little quicker.

Advertisers are and have been less likely to be the pioneers they once were, with either the fear of heavy fines if they get it wrong, or internal legal departments taking time to do due diligence, holding them back.

In essence, what we’re suggesting is that we could benefit from a bit of the old-fashioned zodiac-themed hype to stir up action amongst advertisers to drive privacy strategies forward.

What’s Wrong With the Status Quo?

Later at the event, Adam Taylor started his presentation by talking about what we already know, consumer trust is at an all-time low when it comes to privacy. This desire for privacy is highlighted by the fact that searches for “online privacy” grew 50% YoY.

But Google, together with IPSOS, released a research paper on privacy, at DMEXCO last week, which pulled together research across Europe. This research focused on the consequences of good and bad privacy experiences.

Adam pulled important insights from the IPSOS report. And they are:

1. Data Breaches Aren’t the Only Barrier to Consumer Trust

    The impact of poor privacy experiences on a consumer’s willingness to trust a brand with their personal data is almost as severe as a data breach.

    2. Competitive Advantages Exist If You Get the Privacy Experience Right

      Advertisers that provide a positive privacy experience where people feel in control of their data can increase the share of brand preference over a competing brand by 43%.

      3. Personal Data Cannot Be Bought - Consumers Aren’t Motivated by Monetary Rewards

        For brands with good privacy practices already in place, the addition of a monetary incentive did nothing to further improve brand preference, but it did negatively impact consumer trust in sharing their personal data

        4. Consistent Actions & Messaging Is Key to Giving Back Control

          There are clear actions that advertisers can take to increase a consumer’s feeling of control. The benefits to an advertiser are incremental – those that do more to combine multiple privacy actions can net a 42% increase in the feeling of control.

          Adam hypothesized that these themes in transparency, choice, and control are not being given the priority they deserve by the C-Level decision makers.

          Instead, what is happening is an application of bare minimum regulatory practices across many industries – plugging the gaps to continue operating in the way that we’re used to. In short, it’s not going to be enough for brands to grow in the long term.

          Responsible Marketing: An Opportunity for Growth

          The Google/IPSOS research paper tells us that for advertisers to succeed long-term in this area, advertisers must interact with consumers by:

          Making It Meaningful: What’s in It for the Customer?

            People will voluntarily share their data with companies that demonstrate a clear value proposition. Marketers can respond by clearly communicating the value of an exchange to the customer and anticipating their customers’ needs with relevant and timely messages.

            Making It Memorable: Conscious Permission Is a Valuable Thing

              People have a limited understanding of how online privacy works, and that affects the way they feel about advertising. But when they remember the choices they have made about data sharing, they have more positive responses.

              Making It Manageable: People Expect a Sense of Control

                  When people feel they lack control over their personal data, they can become skeptical of digital marketing. Marketers should provide the tools and information customers need to manage their privacy.

                  So, how is Google responding to this research? A timely reinvention of Ads Settings in Chrome Google now calls ‘My Ad Centre’. This promises to be an upfront tool allowing consumers to take control of what adverts and personalisations they are comfortable with.

                  Google also reminded us that they are still here to help. They are still building out ideas in the Privacy Sandbox, supporting tools to underpin future-proofed strategies, and working closely with Partners like us to get ahead in the market.

                  Final Thoughts

                  But beyond relying on partners like Google, Adam left us with a stark warning: Advertisers really need to make a conscious effort to put their customers' data privacy at the forefront of their campaigns.

                  Start by defining what your data standards are; how will you stand by them and make them meaningful? Embrace the change, build stronger and transparent relationships with consumers and deliver better ad campaigns.

                  The trust of the ad-supported web is in all your hands. You have been warned.