Todd is a full stack martech developer and founder of Snipbot.
Todd has worked with many high volume businesses and agencies optimising their marketing technology stack.
Todd's martech product, Snipbot is a hight-consent tool, that allows customers to be automatically reminded about a particular call-to-actions on your site, especially when they aren't quite ready to make a decision during their visit.
Here we ask Todd Heslin 2 key questions on the changing Digital Marketing landscape, in light of privacy.
This shift is a long time coming. I remember the first presentations about a 'cookieless future'. People who used adbockers, https://pi-hole.net, or simply incognito browsers were mostly untrackable by the ad industry. These people were thought of as the 'forgettable minority'. In 2017/2018 Apple's Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) set the stage for the game to be changed.
Whether you are a publisher or advertiser, permission-based first party data is the lifeblood of your ad revenue or spend efficiency respectively. This is the new age of contextual targeting.
Across the clients I work with, I've seen the impact of both preparedness and denial of our cookieless future in advertising. Perhaps the best way to understand whether an organisation is truly committed to making the change is in how they behave, not what they say.
Here is what prepared organisations are doing:
- building permission-based first party data sets, and delivering ongoing value for being part of the list
- focusing on conversion rates, not simply traffic
- tracking the few events that matter, not drowning in data from tracking everything
- migrating event tracking to a server-side measurement plan
- optimising the entire digital experience, including speed, accessibility, and cross-device flows
Unprepared organisations are using this opportunity as cover. With third party cookies sunsetting, be careful of those who make big promises and blame a changing landscape for their lack of performance.
I think it's important to separate digital advertising and digital marketing to answer this question. I'll start with the more controversial.
The digital advertising industry worked on a theory that anyone who didn't know how to prevent behaviour tracking or didn't care enough to do it, would be fair game. Apple's ITP was significant because it didn't only capture Safari traffic, but ALL web traffic on the iOS and iPadOS browsers, including those who are using Chrome and Firefox.
This era of behaviour tracking has created a false dichotomy narrative in digital advertising. The discussion is usually limited to: 'you either support advertising and accept tracking, or you believe all ads should be blocked'. This conversation usually becomes tightly coupled to: 'you either believe GDPR is a positive move to rein-in aggressive tracking, or you believe regulation is killing the industry'.
Like most issues in politics, it is difficult to have any reasonable conversation when we are reduced to picking one of two sides. Here's my take when it comes to advertising on the web.
Advertising is an important mechanism to fund creativity and spread thoughtful ideas. It's no longer the only choice, and perhaps one of the least efficient, but it remains one we should protect with fair rules. Behavioural targeting is useful when it's limited to only one website. Data sharing between websites should be an intentional and deliberate choice by the user, and a choice they can revoke.
Consider a parallel in the real world. It's not creepy to walk into a shop and have the sales assistant observe how we behave and make useful suggestions. But it would be creepy if you walk into another unrelated store and there is a profile of you on the wall that the owner pulls off and starts making suggestions based on your interactions with the first store.
Boundaries make people feel safe. People who feel safe share their ideas freely and engage in commerce in good faith. Many of the privacy-related problems in digital advertising come from a lack of boundaries. From all the GDPR individual rights, the Right to erasure is perhaps the most important in my opinion. Everyone deserves a reset button.
Now moving on to digital marketing, or any form of engagement with 'owned audiences' (customers, subscribers etc). I believe the opt-out experience matters more than the perfect opt-in experience. There are many places where your customers or subscribers interact with your business.
We try new campaigns, new user experiences, and new funnels. Labouring each of these with all the perfect privacy-compliant list of everything you think you might want to do with their email can be cumbersome and an annoying experience for the user. When someone is providing us with an email via Google or Facebook log in, a phone number for an order, or an email to subscribe to a notification, they are implicitly trusting that we treat it with respect.
Instead, I prefer to be a little more relaxed on disclosure at the start of these experiences but instead focus on three things:
1) Immediately confirm what personal information we have, the reasons we might reach out, and who this is shared with (hopefully no one if they haven't opted in...)
2) Make the 'manage preferences' a prominent and delightful experience
3) Ensure opt-out is a single click and immediately removes the user from every campaign source, sends them a single goodbye confirmation
Whilst the lax opt-in approach might not meet legal requirements in some jurisdictions, I believe users care much more about transparency and the opt-out experience.
My advice is to focus on the social contract between your business and your customers/subscribers. I'd rather make the lawyers nervous but my customers happy.
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