I may work in marketing, but as someone who appreciates privacy, I’m a marketer’s worst nightmare. When it comes to data collection, I want my information hidden from companies as much as possible. Fortunately (for me, at least), various search settings and browser options let me limit what I share. Plenty of others feel the same way, which has led to more stringent laws governing personal data. But for those in the business of data-driven marketing, that’s a big problem.
According to a January 2017 report from the Global Alliance of Data-Driven Marketing Associations and Winterberry Group, heightened data regulation and ad blocking are the two biggest barriers to effective data-driven marketing efforts.
In a brand’s ideal world, these issues would be obsolete. Marketers and consumers could reach a mutual understanding: people accept some degree of data collection, and companies, in turn, limit their invasiveness. But beyond questions of transparency and accountability, online ads serve up a host of other problems. On a computer, they slow down internet speeds and drain battery. On mobile, those concerns elicit data charges.
Seen through that light, it’s not surprising that global ad-blocking usage increased 102 percent in 2015, per a 2016 study by PageFair and Adobe. Advertisers responded by firing back, accusing ad-blocking providers of extorting marketers into paying for loopholes that circumvent the technology. Randall Rothenberg, CEO and president of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, went so far as to call blockers “an unethical, immoral, mendacious coven of techie wannabes.”
It makes sense that those in the ad business are so intent to remove an obstacle, but they might be missing the point. “If consumers … felt there were adequate controls for privacy,” Craig Spiezle, executive director of the Online Trust Alliance, told the New York Times, “and the ad industry was making a sincere effort to fight abuse and malfeasance, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
The message is clear: The “challenges” of ad blocking and data regulation are really signal flares to do something different. Marketing guru Seth Godin treats this type of permission marketing like dating. When someone makes it clear they’re not interested, focus on someone else.
“Let’s look at ad blocking for what it is: Consumers calling us out on the industry’s bad behavior,” writes Ad Age contributor Patrick Hopf. “Stop worrying about the consumers who block ads, and double your efforts to engage those who accept them.”