Unlocking The New C's of the Digital Era

By Fahed Moubarak, Business Director, KSA

5 min read

The last few years have felt like a reality adaptation of Georges Orwell’s “1984”: big brother is watching you. To be precise, in today’s digital economy big brother is watching, storing, and analyzing your personal data. With tremendous fear surrounding what large companies (Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon) are doing with this data, users have lost trust in performance-driven marketers. As privacy ecosystems increase in complexity, advertisers are facing many challenges that will require them to go back to the original meaning of “Big Brother”: Someone who doesn’t watch you, but rather watches over you. 

Is the Real Monster Threatening Privacy or Data?

For performance marketers and publishers alike, the current formula is straightforward: Seek permission before gaining access to personal data. This raises the more important question of whether the real danger is to privacy or data?

Privacy: The unit of measure users best understand about themselves and thrive to protect.

Data: The abstract portrait of who they are, which exposes them to being more vulnerable as their personal autonomy is breached and compromised. 

Here are some cases which prove that no company is immune:

Facebook's Series of Data Breaches

Including but not limited to the Cambridge Analytics scandal, the realization that major apps continue to illegally share user data with Facebook, and the 50 million accounts exposed in September 2018.

Security and Privacy Vulnerability with Amazon

Another big database from February 2020 containing millions of European customers’ records was left unsecured on Amazon Web Services for anyone to find and access by a third-party company unknown to users.

The threat is not just to privacy and data but also to performance marketers, especially with the rise of e-commerce and Covid-19 pushing brands towards digitalization. With users becoming less accessible, marketers are struggling to target, pace, measure, and assess the creative’s impact on overall digital media consumption.

Aside from threatening both privacy and data, the entire digital ecosystem which operates in a user-blinded data environment, is causing digital marketing budgets to decline, as targeting is wasted on the wrong users, receiving irrelevant messaging. Marketers struggle to navigate between KPIs and meeting regulatory obligations to ensure data security. Despite the rising challenges, opportunities do exist for major players.

What exactly changed?

Between Apple’s deprecation of mobile identifiers (iOS 14 - 2020) and Google’s looming depreciation of third-party cookies (complete phaseout expected by 2022), as well as the strict implementation of the GDPR in the EU (2016) and the CCPA in California (2020), advertisers began filtering tools that allow them to ethically use the same data and turn their focus towards creativity and data-driven stories that showcase the human side behind brands.

Turning Challenges into Opportunities

In today’s world, DMPs risk losing scale. This is a golden opportunity for standalone premium publishers to scale up their user base by focusing on improved content strategies that attract users’ first-party data (the most valuable source for earning revenue), while leveraging their contextual targeting capabilities. This data helps them to better understand which content users are looking for. 

To accomplish this, users need to feel comfortable sharing their data. Building a strong relationship based on trust is the key to uncovering the true value of first-party data, and with it, comes a responsibility on premium-publishers to increase opt-in rates while creating a safe space for users to view native content, especially since they hold the most powerful insights into what their users find meaningful and engaging.

If content is king, then publishing is the kingdom.

This responsibility does not only rest on premium publishers’ shoulders, as advertisers are leaning back on them and their users’ data to reach relevant audiences and seek ROI.

With rich media engaging placements, native formats, branded content opportunities and performance positioned formats; premium publishers enable advertisers to create stories on an editorial and advertising level which allows them to communicate with users across multiple touchpoints. As a result, brands are motivated to utilize better storytelling that fits naturally into publisher’s websites. This way, users can seamlessly be part of all stages of the purchasing funnel within the same ecosystem. 

Joint Efforts in the New Age of Digitalization

Better performance is the outcome of bespoke imaging and adequate targeting capabilities. After playing it unsafe and focusing on performance outcomes and sales using machine learning capabilities rather than content development and creativity, brands and media agencies must start building the right narrative and join forces with premium publishers.

Changing the Narrative for Better Identity Marketing

The uncertainty of our times (Covid-19 and 2020) has resulted in people viewing their identity very differently. Here’s how performance marketers can start to complement the efforts of premium publishers:

  • Replace “targeting and collecting leads” with “reaching out to fellow humans”
  • Replace “traditional marketing differentiators” such as “nationality, gender, behavior” with “needs, wants, life stories, experiences, and connections”
  • Replace “here’s why YOU need to purchase this…” with “here’s OUR story that you can relate to”

 By investing in content and creatives that publishers are proud to share, advertisers are proud to develop, and audiences are proud to consume and relate to, we have a chance to steer our industry in the right direction.