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Time for data owners to come clean

As the marketing world switches towards omni-channel digital marketing it becomes ever more important that the consumer understands the benefits and pitfalls of the data that is being used to target this marketing, as well as ensuring that they have consented to this data being used.

Consumers need to be educated to the benefits that derive from better targeted advertising in the digital world. The fact is that they will see ads all over the internet and other marketing messages driven through email and social. If these adverts are not based on correct data the advertising will be, by definition, untargeted rather than relevant and timely which makes the user experience engaging relevant and adds value.

Consumers expect transparency
In the off-line world there is still a perception that imparting data to brands and data companies is likely to result in more marketing communications; some relevant but many less targeted, particularly from lead generation businesses using telemarketing as a key channel and hence a poor experience for the user that they may often feel they can not control and is neither relevant or of value.

Over time this has created a perception that data owners are up to ’Big Brother’ tactics storing enormous amounts of data and abusing their power, a viewpoint that the media are only too keen to regularly reinforce.

Data owners need to react to these changes in the marketing dynamic and figure out how they develop more trusted and demonstrably beneficial relationship with consumers who are currently suspicious of intentions at best. Moving away from a reactive stance driven by consumer complaints to a proactive stance that gives consumers transparency is going to become critical and I am sure will be standard in all digital marketing economies in the near future. Data owners already have to be able to prove data permissioning on demand so a shift to transparency is a change in mind set rather than a revolution.

Handing control to the consumer
A very good starting point for data owners is to provide access to data held about consumers so that they can understand what is known about them and how it is being used for benefit of targeting for marketers and for consumers to bring relevancy to their advertising experience. Giving consumers the ability to correct data and opt out of marketing is important to build this trust.

There are not only good marketing and commercial drivers to be considered, but also we are already seeing the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) step up activities to make data usage more relevant in the digital channels as recent dramatic changes to guidelines for PECR legislation have shown. Whilst this legislative push is aimed more at the non-compliant telemarketing and SMS operations the message the ICO is enforcing is that consumers do not like it when their data is either misused or their consent not considered or they feel ambushed and are particularly frustrated if they do not have the transparency as to why they are being marketed to poorly and are demanding change.

In the US this shift to data transparency by data owners is already happening along with the strapline: If you want to get the best advertising delivered to you, based on your actual interests, start here.

Whilst this is an innovative concept there are pitfalls and risks involved in such a strategy that could result in it backfiring:

  1. You need confidence in your data quality – incorrect or out of date data is in the spotlight
  2. Access to the data must be consumer friendly – poor website functionality will create negatives
  3. Data must be in a format the consumer can understand and is not overwhelmed by The volume or complexity or industry terminology
  4. You run the risk of multiple opt-outs if consumers don’t buy in to the concept

Overall I think it’s time for data owners to take the plunge before they are forced to.

By Jonathan Clough, Head of Data Acquisition at Acxiom and DMA Data Council member

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