Protecting User Privacy in the Digital Advertising Ecosystem

Raina Roberts - Sales Manager EMEA, Smartology

Raina Roberts, Sales Manager EMEA at Smartology, explores how the push to a more privacy-focused digital advertising landscape is taking place at a time when digital creativity and innovation have never been more important

The first half of 2020 has been a wild ride to say the least, yet it feels more apt than ever to be sitting here writing about digital innovation and using digital for good. Even as lockdown restrictions have slowly eased, the global population as a whole is still very dependent on the digital connectivity we so quickly have come to rely on. 

Indeed, for the most part, the shift to remote working and increased connectivity has been a success. However, as with all innovations, there are always challenges to navigate and overcome; in the context of lockdown, issues with security measures in the tools that have helped us to work and socialise from home, known as ‘zoom-bombing’. 

The bulk of this comes down to the level of sophisticated technologies we now have access too and the speed at which innovation happens. There is so much pressure to be the first to get a product out to market and for it to be the best that we barely have a chance to catch our breath before the next big thing is rolled out - arguably limiting our ability to assess the full impact, both positive and negative, of what has been created. 

For the purpose of this article, let’s focus on user privacy and the programmatic landscape as an example and how digital innovation can be used for good: shifting cultural conversations, serving poignant and moving campaigns, and allowing brand purpose and company values to drive digital innovation, all while protecting user information. 

Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2017 and the implementation of GDPR in 2018, user privacy has not only been a leading industry topic but one that has become mainstream as well. Consumers are more aware than ever of advertising targeting methods. When programmatic advertising first started ‘making it big’, it was hailed as a transformative solution that would lead the industry into an age of efficiency and effectiveness thanks to easily accessible audience data segments, real-time bidding, and budget agility capabilities.  

While there are clear issues that still need to be addressed within the programmatic supply chain - as shown by ISBA and PwC's recent study into supply chain transparency - there is also good cause for optimism. If there is any positive to take away from this past year it is that we are not built for isolation and thrive off of connection and collaboration. There is still work to be done in shaping the programmatic ecosystem around user privacy, but we have already seen some transformative movements in a short period of time.

Browsers such as Safari are pushing the privacy wave, having made all third-party cookies obsolete on their platform. Google has since also announced it will be phasing out all third-party cookies by 2022. Initiatives like IAB Europe’s Transparency and Consent Framework are leading an industry-wide united response to the GDPR and we have players across the landscape working on solutions like universal anonymised IDs and methods to standardise taxonomies, definitions, retention, measurement etc in order to cease the fragmentation of the ecosystem and protect user privacy. 

Advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence-based solutions have made it easier than ever to create unique and creative campaigns without relying on identifying user information. Context is the currency of the moment and its definition is widening to include an increasing number of contextual identifiers - such as sentiment targeting, targeting based on time (day, week, month, year), or even real-time context. 

Changes in how we measure campaign success will likely go through a transformation too, especially as major browsers are making third-party tracking tools obsolete, and solutions like eye-tracking/heat maps have already been introduced. 

Digital innovation and advancements will continue to  progress over the years, and as has been the case before, there will inevitably be challenges along the way. But the connectivity and collaboration this work enables and that we thrive off will continue to allow brands, agencies, ad tech vendors, and publishers alike to shift cultural norms for the better - the push to a more privacy-friendly advertising landscape will be one of those norms. 

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Guide to Digital Innovation 2020

Introducing our Guide to Digital Innovation 2020. From shoppable video to gaming experiences, the new guide gives first-hand insight from 36 IAB UK members on the most innovative digital ad solutions and how brands can effectively harness them.

Written by

Raina Roberts

Sales Manager EMEA, Smartology


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