Connection Not Compliance Is the Key to Growth

by | Mar 27, 2023

The media, marketing, advertising and adtech industries are at an important inflection point. They’re facing a difficult choice: to innovate and self-regulate their way out of growing regulation or spend countless dollars fighting it.

It’s no secret that the data collected from consumers is the fuel that enables seamless engagement, personalization, and the consumer demand we desire. And many people are willing to share their information—or have it used—in exchange for value and convenience. But mounting privacy concerns have cast a shadow over the data-marketing industry.

Over time the flow of data might be substantially curtailed in the name of consumer privacy, which is why it’s important for company leaders to come together and demonstrate how andwhy anonymous data collection benefits consumers and companies alike—and also why self- regulation is the way forward. (The advertising industry has been self-regulated for five decades.) This moment in time harks back to the days when television was nascent and the grab for attention across a mere three networks was fierce—more fierce, in fact, than what we’re likely to see in a digital economy with unlimited opportunities to attract consumer

Self-regulation should look more like consumer protection than “table stakes” compliance. The approach we take is to expand the benefits of a pervasive value exchange—and to assume that we can delight consumers with more than they expect through the use of engaging ad formats, opt-in data, and insightful targeting whenever they click, view, or scan. Connections are what’s most important to an industry of communicators, if we want more than 10% app usage rates, better than 40% customer satisfaction and 32% active viewing of streaming ads. But how can we make those all-important connections?

Ensure that consumers understand how their data is used and what they gain from sharing it.

Marketers, web platforms, and media companies shouldn’t be afraid to use more attention-grabbing means to make consumers aware of how their data is used, how individuals benefit, and what steps are taken to keep personally identifiable data private. Overexplaining shouldn’t be a concern. We ought to be able to apply our communication skills and the technology we are using to underscore how data improves consumers’ digital experiences and helps businesses thrive. At the same time, consumer privacy has to be respected. We constantly challenge ourselves to keep consumers’ privacy at top of mind in product development, disclosures, and our data collection policies.

Become better marketers by prioritizing the value exchange.

Consumers are right to expect marketers to be courteous and respectful of their time and attention. This means shifting away from interruptive ads and hyper-targeting—and toward more contextualized experiences that provide demonstrable benefits. Consumers want to know: “In exchange for the data I give you, what do I get back?” Bethany Evans, Vice President, Media and Channel Marketing for The North Face, noted onstage at IAB’s Annual Leadership Meeting that North Face now directly tells people why it’s asking for their data and how it will be used. As we make data and value exchanges more transparent and consistent as an industry, brands will reap the benefits of consumer attention and connection—the technology we wield has the power to go beyond mere observation to true facilitation and helpfulness.

Give consumers more interesting choices and control.

Consumers need control over how their data is collected and used, anywhere and everywhere. The more interesting we make data collection (e.g., via voice, video, or open-ended conversations that can be codified via AI), the more informative data we’ll collect. More interesting inputs signal to consumers that we are truly listening for their input and desires, not just trolling for clicks and sales voyeuristically. We’re setting a new standard for how consumer data is collected.

We are working closely with our partners at Airship, who are experts at innovating how consumers interact with the 900 million apps at their fingertips by providing insightful opt-in data.


All marketers and adtech firms have the technology to add significant value—and it can be done while continuing to respect boundaries. Fortunately, taking proactive steps, finding creative ways to improve the customer’s experience via technology (and not just waiting for more regulation) is what this industry is best at—and the best way to build a bridge to the continued growth that the digitization of media and explosion of content promises.

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