Major Online Privacy Changes: What They Mean for Marketers

Major Online Privacy Changes: What They Mean for Marketers

Greater online privacy is good news for users trying to protect their personal information, but how will it impact the digital advertising landscape?

It’s been a year of big changes for everyone, and digital marketers are no exception. Online usage trends, new and emerging platforms, and regulatory changes have significantly affected the digital landscape over the past 12-15 months. Believe it or not, the next year or two could bring even greater shifts in the industry…

Google, Apple, and Facebook made some big privacy updates

The shift toward an internet that places more importance on user privacy and data protection is happening right before our eyes. Last year, Apple announced that Identifier For Advertisers (IDFA) would become optional by the beginning of 2021, and we’ve already started seeing this in action as part of the iOS 14 update. This means users can opt-out of the tracking that usually gives advertisers the information they need to target specific audiences and personalize ads.

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For advertisers, this can greatly reduce revenue and the effectiveness of ads. But for users, this shift gives them more data privacy and fewer “I think my phone is listening to me” moments when they get served an ad about something they were just talking about.

So, what’s better? Ad targeting precision or user privacy?

You can’t have both at 100% since they’re almost diametrically opposed, but finding the right balance is tricky because everyone has different objectives and opinions. Google, Apple, and Facebook all have different ideas for what is best. Media partners have additional perspectives, and our own thoughts depend on whether we’re thinking about this as digital marketers or as individual users.

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As an agency, we need to efficiently get our message out to the right people. As social change marketers, we’re trying to get people to consider what’s good for them and good for their communities—and user data helps us reach the right people, in the right place, at the right time. But as users, we want as much privacy and protection as we can get. Whatever shape you can think of with the most sides to it, this discussion has many, many more.

Rather than replacing the third-party cookies that track our web activity from site to site, Google is moving forward with testing and developing new technologies for ad targeting. Specifically, these new technologies won’t collect information from users across multiple websites as the third-party cookies have. We can expect some real changes, rather than third-party cookies simply going by another name.

There have been some questions surrounding motivations, as this shift means first-party user data will become even more valuable…and Google certainly isn’t lacking in that arena. The skepticism is understandable, but Google’s approach likely has more to do with ongoing regulatory discussions than private motivations.

What now?

We’re still very much at a wait-and-see stage, but our targeting will certainly become less precise. As always, there will be more questions than there are answers in the world of digital advertising.

While things are changing and there will be less precision, there’s simply too much money in digital advertising for it to disappear or be rendered completely ineffective. Digital advertising will continue to be a viable marketing and advertising channel and worth allocating significant budget toward. The way things evolve will determine how significant the budget should be, along with the current factors such as target audience, campaign messaging, timeliness, etc. Each brand and campaign is unique and should be treated as such—this shift in the landscape won’t change that.

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Every disruption creates space and the need for innovation, which is essentially a challenge we all have to meet in one way or another. That excites us because oftentimes, our greatest work is produced when we’re challenged.