Privacy plus personalization: The new frontier of digital advertising – MarTech

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Break-neck rates of change are inevitable as digital marketing responds to technological advancements, shifting consumer behavior and policy demands. For the past three decades, marketers have been leading the way on the web, adapting to constant changes.
Despite this, progress isn’t slowing down. Projections show that digital marketing in the U.S. could increase by $100 billion in the next three years. The current marketing paradigm reflects a concerted effort toward less invasive strategies, driven partly by regulatory frameworks such as the GDPR and CCPA, among others.
To successfully maintain relevance, brands must understand the implications of these policies and craft marketing campaigns with consumer privacy and agency in the foreground. Interestingly, this can be done by adapting certain tried-and-true strategies.
Digital marketers are going back to basics, using foundational strategies to foster meaningful engagement. Most notably, privacy concerns and consumer fatigue with intrusive ads have propelled the resurgence of organic content marketing. Storytelling is never out of fashion, whether spanning 30 seconds or 30 minutes. With the GDPR and CCPA emphasizing obtaining explicit consent for data collection and processing, brands can utilize organic content strategies prioritizing transparency and value exchange. 
Brand-driven content establishes trust and authority, while user-generated content (UGC) builds community and provides rich insight into audience sentiment. Patagonia’s “Worn Wear” campaign, for example, encouraged customers to share stories about their well-loved Patagonia gear, exemplifying the power of authentic storytelling without relying on invasive data collection practices.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is where content marketing goes from old school to new school. AI bolsters automation and content ideation and helps repurpose top-performing creative across channels. However, AI-generated content is squarely in the crosshairs of regulatory scrutiny. Consider creating rules or guidelines for generative AI use in your brand style guide that gets updated in line with policy to maintain ethical, unbiased content creation practices and mitigate backlash.
Dig deeper: Rethinking content governance in the era of generative AI
Users today don’t want to be tracked but still expect a highly tailored experience. Further, the GDPR’s stringent requirements for consent-based marketing communications are driving brands to diversify their advertising efforts to engage consumers in more permission-driven ways. For this reason, major adtech companies, consortiums and data providers are exploring universal user IDs.
The UID is intended to meet audience privacy standards while enabling marketers to continue targeting consumers with personalized ads across the digital supply chain. The user retains control by opting into the data collection at the time of login to a publisher site. The advertiser benefits from a higher match rate and faster data load time than cookie-synching. From a targeting perspective, it feels democratic, but it’s still in the young days.
In the absence of a UID, brands can reach specific audience segments without the need for third-party cookies through contextual targeting. A renewed focus on keywords allows brands to target niche audience interests with brand-safe and privacy-compliant precision. Global contextual advertising spend worldwide is expected to grow nearly 14% annually by 2030.
As for the consumer experience, media heavyweights like Spotify and Netflix use machine learning to curate personalized playlists and recommendations based on user consumption habits rather than personal data.
When it comes to consent-based personalization, few campaigns could challenge Coca-Cola’s infamous “Share a Coke” campaign. This long-running initiative, which personalized product packaging with individual names and encouraged social sharing, exemplifies a highly effective, interactive, opt-in engagement with global reach. However, the proliferation of disparate interactions across online and offline mediums poses challenges for marketers seeking to track and measure the effectiveness of omnichannel campaigns accurately.
Dig deeper: The CMO’s practical guide to personalization
Attribution is the oldest joke in advertising, thanks to Wanamaker’s quip. Brands continue to grapple with demonstrating the true impact of their marketing efforts on business outcomes. 
Weighted measurement (i.e., a multi-touch attribution model) only becomes more prescient with each new platform and the consumer’s steadfast expectation in a seamless omnichannel experience. A weighted model gives proportional credit to each touchpoint across the consumer’s journey, accounting for the variable impact of each interaction. Last-touch models are a once-upon-a-time stopgap for direct marketers and clickbait campaigns. 
Weighted measurement is not a “set-and-forget” system. Weights must be continually recalibrated to campaign outputs and consumer inputs. By bubbling up to metrics such as brand lift, sales lift and customer lifetime value, marketers gain a holistic view of marketing impact and align strategies with broader organizational goals.
Unilever’s People Data Center consolidates anonymized consumer data to measure the long-term impact of marketing activities. This reflects industry momentum toward outcome-based measurement. While weighted measurement provides a more nuanced understanding of campaign performance, brands must invest in robust analytics capabilities and data governance frameworks to ensure compliance and accuracy.
Dig deeper: Why we care about marketing attribution modeling
Digital marketing is always transforming. That’s not news. The techniques that will work today are not all that new either. Evolution is about carrying forward what works and dropping what doesn’t.
The zeitgeist of digital advertising today is characterized by a shift toward less invasive strategies, prioritizing consumer privacy and engagement over the cheapest possible click. Mounting regulatory pressures make the landscape seem less like the Wild West, urging marketers to connect with their audience ethically and effectively. This can be a welcome moment of transition.
By embracing transparency and accountability in their digital marketing efforts, brands can navigate the complexities of privacy regulations without sacrificing an engaging and lucrative consumer experience in the steadfast charge forward.
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