What is most surprising to me about the raging debate on privacy is the fact that we as an industry have only come up with one solution: Opt-Out! This has obviously thrown the entire advertising business into a frenzy. Why? Because we know if given the easy ability, consumers will opt-out. The other solution that seems to be missing from the debate is how do we actually get consumers to opt-in? From consumers to publishers, advertisers and all of us who support these enterprises, there is far greater value if we can get consumers to volunteer up data, get connected to brands of direct relevance and increase the value of the advertising inventory engaged as a result.
Here is my rationale:
I spent 23 years of my career at PWC, the last 10 as a senior partner, largely building advertising-based businesses in the digital media space. As a result I became very familiar with the privacy issues felt among the consumers. Around 2005, I became alarmed at the lack of research about consumers in two simple areas:
1) changing media habits and
2) their receptivity to new forms of digital advertising as mobile, broadband and video were growing capacity every day.
So, I started regular consumer focus groups at PWC with some surprising results for the time, but not for the debate now raging.
Firstly, consumers love brands!! They treat them like friends. In fact, before starting focus groups, we would sometimes ask consumers to write down all their favorite brands. In many cases, most people wrote down well over 50 brands. They view advertising as a form of "discovery" reinforcing why they use brands or introducing them to new ones. However, even from the days of 2005, these same consumers expressed their desire to control their advertising experiences on their terms and when they were ready to engage.
Secondly, when it comes to giving up data, many consumers are happy to do so if and only if they are going to get something of value in return. They repeatedly confirmed their belief that content was not commensurate value for their time and their valuable information. Furthermore, consumers would ask how can our advertising experience be more like the match.com for brands and people. Many consumers would love to give up information about their lifestyles, interests and current buying needs to be matched to brands and their advertising messages. What they do not want is the common practice of their data being abused and sold for unintended marketing purposes. These included tagging, tracking and sending sensitive or unrelated marketing messages.
After my time at PWC, I was introduced to AdGenesis, the brand to consumer matchmaking service that I now work with. In this young company with huge ambitions, I found a solution that consumers want. A white label platform for publishers to provide their loyal users with a service that matches them to brands and offers through e-mail notification and brand videos. The whole model is based on users signing up and opting in to join the service and raise their hands to brands to say 'If I am a match for you, send me your ad'. In this process, users regularly answer profiling questions about themselves and their buying habits and needs. This simple infomediary model validated everything I repeatedly heard consumers wanted and, what advertisers would pay more for. It was the modernization of the weakening 'scale and impressions' model from the 1940s and still in use today. It was using technology to become the "Quality versus Quantity" branding solution.
As a result of this simple model where brands also thank consumers for their time and attention by giving loyalty points or great offers, consumers now have their match.com of brands. Advertisers are seeing the immediate results with a pay for guaranteed view model and click through rates of between 10% and 25%. AdGenesis has some major publisher deals and delivering tens of thousands of matches a week. Released last week, the AdGenesis ad unit, the AdMatch is the highest performance and most valuable branding and DR video ad unit on the market.
Back to the debate: what surprises me is that it has taken this long for the public, the politicians and now, the advertising market itself to realize what an issue it is. And are now pushing a knee-jerk opt-out only solution versus finding the win-win of getting consumers to opt-in.
Michael Kelley is CMO and on the Advisory Board of AdGenesis. Michael is one of the most recognized marketers and digital advertising strategists who knows how to build and operate businesses. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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