How we can restore trust in digital advertising

How we can restore trust in digital advertising



Greg Sterling

Benoit Grouchko is CEO and co-founder of Teemo.

Teemo is a France-based location intelligence provider (“drive-to-store” marketing platform) that serves the retail, fast-food, automotive and grocery industries. The company worked closely with the French privacy regulator (CNIL) to develop specific consent language around third-party use of location data and saw 70% consumer opt-in rates.

Benoit Grouchko is CEO and co-founder. I spoke to him recently about data and consumer privacy and his expectations for how CCPA will impact marketers.

ML: Google proposed an industry-wide initiative to try and preserve behavioral targeting in the U.S. while giving consumers more control over that data. Are you hopeful about this effort?

BG: Google
owns such a large piece of the digital advertising pie that one can only be
hopeful. Do they have the leverage to manipulate this to their benefit? Sure,
but their efforts can also do a lot of good on a macro level. 

It’s a good
sign and indicates that Google is seeking to be ahead of the regulation curve
by setting the precedent on privacy. What’s interesting is that a lot of the
best practices this blog proposes are already in place in France and the rest
of Europe. There’s a lot the US can learn from GDPR.

ML: Many surveys suggest that consumers increasingly distrust big internet companies, brands and digital advertising generally. Can trust in digital marketing be restored?

BG: I am an
optimist so, yes, I think trust can – and will – be restored. We sometimes
forget that digital advertising is a relatively new industry. And every
industry goes through a “correction” or “adjustment” of some kind at some point
in its history. We’ve been building up to this for a while now; the Facebook
debacle and the institution of GDPR are the two straws that broke the camel’s
back. 

I think
it’s a matter of time until things settle. I can’t say it will be soon, but
regulation will normalize over time and companies will fall into place. 

What we can
do individually – as people and companies – is to do what’s right for our
customers and to organize. We need to stop thinking of short-term gains and
think about the ecosystem as a whole. As you rightly pointed out, we all stand
to lose here. 

Often
consumers conflate mistrust with misunderstanding. Better transparency will
help people see that the “creepy types of targeting” they mistrust is not quite
as threatening as they perceive.

Advertisers are good at their jobs,
and even better when they use data. Being embedded in the ad industry, I have
the perspective that good advertising helps inform me about products or
opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise know. As digital literacy and transparency
increase, so will trust.

ML: We spoke about finding a middle point between irrelevant and creepy. In a post-GDPR, CCPA world how does all that happen on a mechanical level? 

BG: The middle
ground between irrelevant and creepy is an ad experience that optimizes
performance for the advertiser and is great for the consumer. Two things need
to happen to find that middle ground: first, advertisers need to get better at
understanding performance. Even if an ad is hyper-relevant, if a consumer
perceives it as creepy, it will decrease performance and deteriorate brand
sentiment. Advertisers need to look at performance over everything. The “creep”
factor will play into performance and help advertisers determine what types and
depth of targeting to use.

The second thing that needs to
happen is on the consumer level. Consumers need to become more digitally
literate. Any data that digital marketers ethically use will be anonymized.
Most consumers probably don’t understand that. It goes both ways, though. Many
consumers don’t know which apps are tracking them and when. Great transparency
and knowledge will help us reach a middle ground.

Regulations
will certainly help put some boundaries there and make sure nothing creepy
happens. However, there is a deeper question here around what is actually
creepy or not, as that might vary from one consumer to another.

ML: My understanding that most Europeans aren’t doing much in the way of managing cookie settings; they’re making binary choices (decline/accept). Is this accurate? 

BG: I think
European consumers are confused about how cookies function. I also think many
are wary of the concept. And they should be.

Many
companies use “tricks” to drive consumers to give consent. Some play with
screen placement and colors; others offer only a single choice, which is
consent. 

From my personal point of view, I think these choices relate back to digital literacy. More digitally literate people will make more complex choices and set their permissions at the top level. Most people are probably making binary choices, but as digital literacy increases, people will begin to change their attitudes. Pop-ups were once the bane of any Internet user’s existence. Now users have to deal with privacy, notification and tracking pop-ups. I doubt this will continue forever.

ML: Regarding CCPA, what is put in front of consumers when they visit a website will matter. If choices are complicated they’ll likely “accept” to get to the desired content and there won’t be much impact. Do you agree? 

BG: I couldn’t agree more. And it’s these manipulative/deceptive practices I stated above that are counterproductive to the cause. 

No one reads the entire terms and conditions. People use the Internet to increase speed and efficiency. Like I said, even the opt-in or opt-out choices may fade away at some point.

ML: In the U.S. “ad choices” — the industry’s prior attempt to deliver user control and choice re behavioral targeting — is a total failure.  Why would any of the newer “choice” initiatives (or CCPA) be any different?

BG: Something’s
got to give in terms of privacy and transparency in the US. I hope that CCPA
will learn from GDPR and how consumers reacted. While the first set of
regulations may create an undue burden, the landscape will reach equilibrium,
and everything should go back to “normal” at some point.

ML: How does Safari and ITP, which is a different approach to these same problems, affect the market? Many marketers see cookie blocking as a blunt instrument and very heavy-handed. How do you see what Apple is doing? 

BG: Apple has
always taken a hard line on security – and it’s served them well. If there were
more companies like Apple, perhaps we wouldn’t be in this situation to begin
with. The greedy argument is that digital advertising would not have reached
such heights but, as I said, this is a long-term game. 

The problem
I see now is that everyone has gotten a taste of the profits and set the bar
quite high, making it difficult for any one vendor to take such a hard line
without losing a ton of business. Not an easy problem to solve.

While a
hard line on security has served Apple well, consumer reaction always has a lot
of influence on regulation. Apple has always been able to simplify the digital
experience for consumers. But I still think this first round of guidelines will
be a learning experience, especially as other big players in tech respond.

ML: Whose job is it to educate consumers to make them more digitally literate? 

BG: I think, ultimately, it’s up to us in the industry to not only do what’s right in terms of respecting privacy but also to educate consumers on best practices. I feel that regulation is meaningless to consumers if they don’t understand the nature of the transactions in which they engage, how the technologies work, and the associated costs, benefits, trade-offs. 

Informed consumers are in the end
the future of our businesses, which are built on trust. It’s in our best
interest to do right by then to gain/regain this trust so we can build loyalty.

Regulators, advertisers, companies,
and web providers all have an obligation to be transparent about the digital
landscape and what it means for consumer privacy. But, if the burden falls to
these entities it creates a greater layer of complexity than necessary. It begs
the question: how much should regulators, advertisers, etc. inform consumers?

There certainly should be some
level of transparency, but privacy practices that, for example, initiate pop-up
requests for permission to run every nominal background task may end up
annoying or confusing consumers more than they help them. The landscape will
eventually reach equilibrium. Ultimately, in any society with freedom of
information, it’s up to consumers themselves (along with news organizations,
journalists, and watchdogs) to become digitally literate.


About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He previously held leadership roles at LSA, The Kelsey Group and TechTV. Follow him Twitter or find him on LinkedIn.



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