Move fast, but please don’t break things – delivering great advertising that respects privacy

How marketers can learn a lot from healthcare and cryptocurrency: two areas that have always had to handle data with extreme care.

Move fast, but please don’t break things – delivering great advertising that respects privacy

A revision of Facebook’s old mantra is necessary in the privacy-first age we are entering if we are to avoid upsetting the apple cart, suggests Emil Bielski, Managing Director, UK at Croud…

Earlier this month, Apple CEO Tim Cook described the fight for privacy online as one of “the most essential battles of our time”. Trust is everything for brands. Especially when it comes to the use of consumer data. A report from McKinsey found that 87% of consumers would not do business with a company if they could not trust its security practices. 

Apple has adopted the role of privacy enforcer, revising its policies so that app developers have access only to anonymised data, marking a significant shift away from presenting personal information specific to users. 

Google has followed suit with its plans to block third-party cookies from 2023 – whilst Facebook arguably rebranded to Meta in order to hit ‘refresh’ on the consumer perceptions of how it uses data. 

But as privacy becomes a priority, marketers are growing concerned that they will lose touch with the needs and preferences of their digital customers. 

Without third-party tracking, three primary areas of our industry are affected, namely: targeting, bidding and effectiveness. This does not simply affect the sales performance of our clients, but can lead to a far less satisfying experience for consumers.

Brands, marketers and tech giants alike now need to respond and restructure around a regulated internet. And in doing so, there is much they can learn from other sectors which have been subjected to strict privacy laws from their genesis. 

In sectors like healthcare, and the chaotic-but-growing crypto market, brand marketers have for a long time already been devising effective marketing strategies that comply with strong privacy laws. 

These sectors are emerging as the blueprint for how to operate in a privacy-first world. 

Here’s what they’ve taught us: 

Finding relevance in healthcare 

Healthcare and pharma is big business. But marketers in these industries have to jump through strict hoops in order to satisfy regulatory requirements. 

Increasingly, healthcare brands are turning away from the hyper-targeted ad tracking which has dominated much of the digital age for other sectors. Instead, these advertisers are building generic consumer persona groups. 

These generic groups, which can still be divided and assorted by a range of metrics (such as age, location or income), help brands avoid ethical dilemmas while still providing an engaging enough degree of personalisation.

It pays to watch what is happening on social media too. Observing trends and traffic can inform strategy – allowing brands and advertisers to target keywords and phrases that prospective consumers use. This means ads reach the relevant demographics without breaching privacy laws through targeting specific consumers.

Keeping crypto audiences anonymous 

Crypto markets – and consequently brands – are relatively new. But the sector has dealt with an intense amount of scrutiny and regulation in this short time; and has navigated it successfully. 

Social media is again instrumental. There is a Bitcoin-related post every three-seconds. It’s worth mentioning that the frequency is largely due to a recent change in Facebook’s policy which, as of 8 May 2021, allows cryptocurrency and blockchain-related advertisements to appear on the site without prior approval.

This is not the main hurdle, however. Brand marketers in crypto are selling complex products to audiences who are often unfamiliar with the sector. It’s hard to make any assumptions about what these consumers really want. 

Anonymous first-party data is key. It allows marketers to browse through relevant information, including previous consumer transactions and typical browsing activities, without breaking the trust of their audiences. But this data is tricky to access – especially when you combine this with the digitally anonymous nature of blockchain products. This can cause marketers to spend as much time identifying potential consumers as they do figuring out who already visits their sites. Not ideal, of course, but quite necessary.

By creating synthetic copies of first party data it’s possible to ensure that patterns and relationships are kept, but there is no way to unpick anything that is confidential to the brand or to individuals; and from that segments and lookalike audiences can be built that help inform strategies.

From personalisation to relevance at scale

Going forward, privacy standards are set to be made uniform across the board. Brand marketers working in heavily restricted sectors like crypto are trailblazers; while other industries are attempting to play catch-up, they’ve already mastered the art of producing privacy-compliant ads which engage consumers. 

More importantly, planners and buyers in media agencies will no longer be able to rely on platforms and their targeting algorithms to do the heavy lifting. They will need to think of comms frameworks, ideas and data strategies that make advertising distinctive, that leverage the power of context and of data sources that sit outside of the personal. 


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