A Map or a Matrix? Identity Management Is More Complex By the Day

A newly published white paper on how advertisers and brands can recognize unique customers across marketing platforms underscores just how tough this important job is for data-driven marketers.

As technologists and policymakers weigh in themselves on the data universe – often without understanding the full ramifications of what they do (or worse, knowing so but proceeding anyway) – data flows on the Internet and on mobile platforms are being dammed, diverted, denuded, and divided.

In my opinion, these developments are not decidedly good for advertising – which relies on such data to deliver relevance in messaging, as well as attribution and measurement. There is a troubling anti-competition mood in the air. It needs to be reckoned with.

Consider these recent developments:

  • Last week, the European Court of Justice rendered a decision that overturned “Privacy Shield” – the safe harbor program that upward of 5,000 companies rely upon to move data securely between the European Union and the United States. Perhaps we can blame U.S. government surveillance practices made known by Edward Snowden, but the impact will undermine hugely practical, beneficial, and benign uses of data – including for such laudable aims as identity management, and associated advertising and marketing uses.
  • Apple announced it will mandate an “opt-in” for mobile identification data used for advertising and marketing beginning with iOS 14. Apple may report this is about privacy, but it is also a business decision to keep Apple user data from other large digital companies. How can effective cross-app advertising survive (and be measured) when opt-in rates are tiny? What about the long-tail and diversity of content that such advertising finances?
  • Google’s announcement that it plans to cease third-party cookies – as Safari and Mozilla have already done – in two years’ time (six months and ticking) is another erosion on data monetization used for advertising. At least Google is making a full-on attempt to work with industry stakeholders (Privacy Sandbox) to replace cookies with something else yet to be formulated. All the same, ad tech is getting nervous.
  • California’s Attorney General – in promulgating regulation in conjunction with the enforcement of the California Consumer Privacy Act (in itself an upset of a uniform national market for data flows, and an undermining of interstate commerce) – came forth with a new obligation that is absent from the law, but asked for by privacy advocates: Companies will be required to honor a browser’s global default signals for data collection used for advertising, potentially interfering with a consumer’s own choice in the matter. It’s the Do Not Track debate all over again, with a decision by fiat.

These external realities for identity are only part of the complexity. Mind you, I haven’t even explored here the volume, variety, and velocity of data that make data collection, integration, analysis, and application by advertisers both vital and difficult to do. As consumers engage with brands on a seemingly ever-widening number of media channels and data platforms, there’s nothing simple about it. No wonder Scott Brinker’s Mar Tech artwork is becoming more and more an exercise in pointillism.

Searching for a Post-Cookie Blueprint

So it is in this flurry (or fury) of policy developments that the Winterberry Group issued its most recent paper, “Identity Outlook 2020: The Evolution of Identity in a Privacy-First, Post-Cookie World.”

Its authors take a more positive view of recent trends – reflecting perhaps a resolve that the private sector will seize the moment:

“We believe that regulation and cookie deprecation are a positive for the future health and next stage of growth for the advertising and marketing industry as they are appropriate catalysts for change in an increasingly privacy-aware consumer environment,” write authors Bruce Biegel, Charles Ping, and Michael Harrison, all of whom are with the Winterberry Group.

The researchers report five emerging identity management processes, each with its own regulatory risk. Brands may pursue any one or combination of these methodologies:

  • “A proprietary ID based on authenticated first-party data where the brand or media owner has established a unique ID for use on their owned properties and for matching with partners either directly or through privacy safe environments (e.g.: Facebook, Google, Amazon).
  • “A common ID based on a first-party data match to a PII- [personally identifiable information] based reference data set in order to enable scale across media providers while maintaining high levels of accuracy.
  • “A common ID based on a first-party data match to a third-party, PII-based reference data set in order to enable scale across media providers while maintaining high levels of accuracy; leverages a deterministic approach, with probabilistic matching to increase reach.
  • “A second-party data environment based on clean environments with anonymous ID linking to allow privacy safe data partnerships to be created.
  • “A household ID based on IP address and geographic match.”

The authors offer a chart that highlights some of the regulatory risks with each approach.

“As a result of the diversity of requirements across the three ecosystems (personalization, programmatic and ATV [advanced television]) the conclusion that Winterberry Group draws from the market is that multiple identity solutions will be required and continue to evolve in parallel. To achieve the goals of consumer engagement and customer acquisition marketers will seek to apply a blend of approaches based on the availability of privacy-compliant identifiers and the suitability of the approach for specific channels and touchpoints.”

A blend of approaches? Looks like I’ll need a navigator as well as the map. As one of the six key takeaways, the report authors write:

“Talent gaps, not tech gaps: One of the issues holding the market back is the lack of focus in the brand/agency model that is dedicated to understanding the variety of privacy-compliant identity options. We expect that the increased market complexity in identity will require Chief Data Officers to expand their roles and place themselves at the center of efforts to reduce the media silos that separate paid, earned and owned use cases. The development of talent that overlaps marketing/advertising strategy, data/data science and data privacy will be more critical in the post-cookie, privacy-regulated market than ever before.”

There’s much more in the research to explore than one blog post – so do your data prowess a favor and download the full report here.

And let’s keep the competition concerns open and continuing. There’s more at stake here than simply a broken customer identity or the receipt of an irrelevant ad.

3 Marketing Tactics for Credit Unions to Win Over Millennials

Credit unions offer a better deal for Millennials than any other financial institution, but to win them over, your marketing must embody and convey those advantages.

Credit unions are doing worse with Millennials than any other generation, as this banking target market has flocked to fintech-driven mobile finance experiences that prioritize faceless convenience over the advantages of credit unions. But this disconnect is not the way it has to be.

Credit unions offer a better deal for Millennials than any other financial institution, but to win them over, your marketing must embody and convey those advantages.

The disconnect is a customer experience issue, but it’s not one that can be fixed by just improving customer service. You need to help these potential customers see what your brand represents throughout the lead generation process. If you amplify personalized direct mail with targeted digital marketing, you create an optichannel marketing experience that shows younger audiences you are both relevant to their world and able to deliver the individualized, convenient banking experience they’re looking for.

To attract digitally savvy, convenience-centric banking customers, credit unions must be able to deliver marketing that accomplishes three things at once:

  1. Convey a better customer experience
  2. Embrace technology and convenience
  3. Make a personal connection

1. Convey a Better Credit Union Customer Experience

This is the first taste these Millennials will have of your brand, so it’s important to show why it’s worth their time to bank with you. How does this marketing experience convey the things that will give them a great experience as customers? Is it relevant to what they’re interested in? Is it convenient? Is it personal?

Beyond the marketing experience, what aspects of the customer experience does it actually show? Does it showcase the mobile tools your credit union provides? Does it show how you make it easier for them to access funds and perform transactions? What other benefits do you offer? Do you integrate with their favorite fintech, like Venmo?

It’s the time to show why you’re the credit union that can help them live their active, technology-empowered lives and achieve their financial dreams. Make it clear why your institution is the financial hub Millennials should be choosing as the foundation to reach their goals.

2. Embrace Technology and Convenience

Mobile should not just feature in your customer experience, it must be an integral part of your marketing as well. Today brands can target individuals through data you already have about them or by building custom audiences on digital platforms. These ads must be targeted to social and mobile marketplaces, as well, to ensure that Millennials see your messaging where they live when they’re ready to engage with it.

Reaching out to your audience through mobile channels is only the beginning. The creative you send and the offers it presents must showcase mobile-enablement as well. These customers live on their phones, and you need to show them your credit union lives there, too.

3. Make a Personal Connection

Targeting and personalization go hand-in-hand. The data available today — both your first-party data and information vendors can provide — is a powerful tool for making marketing that connects. This goes beyond demographics. With the right data, you can target younger adults at times when they may be more open to changing banks or pursuing other financial products like car loans and mortgages.

Figure out what demographics and life events you want to engage with this campaign and design a direct mail campaign that addresses them and serves as your marketing catalyst. Then target that defined segment with complimentary marketing across the digital world.

Millennial Marketing Tech for Credit Unions

Credit unions have always marketed less than other financial institutions, especially through mass-market channels. Instead, the traditional credit union relied on word of mouth and brand reputation supported by local direct mail to build personal connections with its community customer base.

Those are all good tactics and credit unions should keep using them, but they aren’t enough. Today, a single direct mail campaign may be seen, but it’s too easily forgotten in the tide of advertising Millennials see all day. Not to mention, while Millennials have been shown to appreciate direct mail, this is not the demographic you want thinking that your brand is “old-school” — digital marketing and engagement channels are essential for getting and holding Millennials’ attention.

Just like your credit union isn’t their father’s financial institution, today’s optichannel marketing isn’t the direct marketing of 1990. With the data and tools available today, it’s possible to make a personal connection that sets your brand up for success with each customer you reach. Doing that in a way that embodies the customer experience your credit union provides is the key to winning Millennial bank accounts today.

Data Love Story in the USA With a Few Spats, Too

You might call this time of year, Jan. 15 to March 15, marketing data’s “high season,” based on all of the goings-on. There’s a lot of data love out there — and, like all relationships that are precious, they demand a huge amount of attention, respect, and honor — and celebration.

I’ve been enjoying Alliant’s “Data and the Marketer: A Timeless Love Story” postings this month, leading up to Valentine’s Day.

You might call this time of year, Jan. 15 to March 15, marketing data’s “high season,” based on all of the goings-on:

The Alliant infographic download got me thinking of some other “key” dates that might also be recognized on the Data Love calendar, reflecting other aspects of the love story. Not all love affairs are perfect — are there any? Sometimes there’s a quarrel and spats happen, without any abandonment of a full-on love affair.

  • 1960 — The Direct Marketing Association (then, DMAA) develops its first self-regulatory ethics code for data and lists, in an early industry initiative to separate the good from bad players. It becomes the basis for practically every data protection (and consumer rights) framework since.
  • 1971 — The Mail Preference Service is launched (today DMAChoice) the first marketing industry opt-out control program for consumers — the essential framework for every consumer choice tool in marketing (in-house and industry-wide) since.
  • 1973 — The U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare introduces and adopts eight Fair Information Principles. In 1980, the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development adopts these principles for trans-border data flows. In 1995, The European Union, among other governments, enact variation and interpretation of these formally into law, eventually adopting the EU General Data Protection Regulation in 2018.
  • 1991 — Jennifer Barret is named Acxiom’s privacy leader — among the first enterprises to name what essentially would become a “chief privacy officer.” In 2000, Trevor Hughes launches the International Association of Privacy Professionals. A nascent cottage industry evolves into a huge professional education and development organization that today includes tens of thousands of members.
  • 1992 — A nonprofit and privacy advocacy organization, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, is formed, and soon thereafter begins tracking data security breaches, both public and private sector. Its breach list since 2005 is posted here. Data privacy and data security, as evidenced in Fair Information Practice Principles, go hand-in-hand.
  • 1994 — The first online display ad appears on the Internet, by AT&T. (And the first commercial email perhaps the same year.) So marked the humble beginnings of Internet marketing — “direct marketing on steroids.” I thought Jeff Bezos used this term in Amazon (formed 1994) early days during a DMA conference – but alas, I’m having a hard time sourcing that one. Perhaps this quote was related to Google (formed 1998) and the real-time relevance of search!
  • 1995-96 — Subscriber Ram Avrahami asserts a property right to his name in a lawsuit against S. News and World Report. Because he thwarted the spelling of his name on the magazine’s list – in a bid to discover who else the magazine rents its subscriber list to – the court ultimately rejects his challenge. The case, however, introduces a novel concept and set of questions:Is the value of any list or database tied to the presence of any one individual name on that list, a penny a name in this case?  Or, is its value because of the sweat of the brow of the list/database creator (a business, nonprofit group, or other entity) that built a common attribute to which a list may derive commercial value?The “walled gardens” of today’s Digital Giants largely were built on such data collection. These two questions recognize that a “data-for-value” exchange must be perceived as mutually beneficial, or else consumer trust is eroded. “Who owns the data?” (a 20th Century assertion) might be better substituted today as “Who has a shared interest in the value and protection of data?” (a 21st Century proposition).
  • 2006 — Facebook is formed, among the first companies that created a “social network.” (I’m sure the adult content sector preceded it, as it often points us the way.) In one industry after another, digital disruption reorders supply chains, consumer-brand relationships, shopping practices, and name-your-own-business here. The Great Recession, and venture capital, serves to speed the quest for data-defined efficiency and transformation.
  • 2017 — Equifax, one of the United States three leading credit and information bureaus on Americans, experiences a breach of epic proportions. While the nation was fascinated with subsequent public hearings about Facebook, its data deals, and its (ahem, beneficial) targeted advertising practices, a potentially much more egregious purveyor of harm – sponsored government hacking of the highest order – largely gets a ho-hum from the general public, at least until this past week.
  • 2020 — California fragments online privacy protection in the United States – only underscoring the need for the federal government to act sooner than later. Support Privacy for America.

So, yes, there’s a lot of Data Love out there — and, like all relationships that are precious, they demand a huge amount of attention, respect, and honor — and celebration. See you soon in Orlando!



What Did You Do on Data Privacy Day 2020? Do Tell Us.

Each year, Jan. 28 is known as “Data Privacy Day” in the United States and globally — also Data Protection Day in other jurisdictions. As business organizations — and marketers — we see that it’s a day when consumers are reminded to exercise their “privacy rights.”

Each year, Jan. 28 is known as “Data Privacy Day” in the United States and globally — also Data Protection Day in other jurisdictions.

As business organizations — and marketers — we see that it’s a day when consumers are reminded to exercise their “privacy rights” and take advantage of tips and tricks for safeguarding their privacy and security. In our world of marketing, there are quite a few self-regulatory and co-regulatory tools (U.S. focus here) that enable choices and opt-outs:

  • To opt out of commercial email, direct mail, and telemarketing in certain states, consumers can avail themselves of DMAchoice. For telemarketing, they can also enroll on the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call database.
  • For data collected online for interest-based ads, consumers can take advantage of Digital Advertising Alliance’s WebChoices and Network Advertising Initiative consumer control tools, which are accessible via the ubiquitous “AdChoices” icon. DAA also offers AppChoices, where data is collected across apps for interest-based ads. [Disclosure: DAA is a client.]
  • Now that California has a new consumer privacy law, consumers there can also take advantage of DAA’s new “Do-Not-Sell My Personal Information” Opt Out Tool for the Web. Its AppChoices mobile app also has a new CCPA opt-out component for “do not sell.” Publishers all over the Web are placing “Do Not Sell My Personal Information” notices in their footers, even if others outside California can see them, and offering links to their own in-house suppression lists, as well as DAA’s. Some publishers are using new the Privacy Rights icon to accompany these notices.

Certainly, businesses need to be using all of these tools — either as participants, or as subscribers — for the media channels where they collect, analyze, and use personal and anonymized data for targeted marketing. There’s no reason for not participating in these industry initiatives to honor consumer’s opt-out choices, unless we wish to invite more prescriptive laws and regulations.

We are constantly reminded that consumers demand high privacy and high security — and they do. We also are reminded that they prefer personalized experiences, relevant messaging, and wish to be recognized as customers as they go from device to device, and across the media landscape. Sometimes, these objectives may seem to be in conflict … but they really are not. Both objectives are good business sense.

As The Winterberry’s Group Bruce Biegel reported while presenting his Annual Outlook for media in 2020 (opens as a PDF), the U.S. data marketplace remains alive and well. For data providers, the onus is to show where consumer permissions are properly sourced, and transparency is fully authenticated and demonstrated to consumers in the data-gathering process. It’s a rush to quality. Plainly stated, adherence to industry data codes and principles (DAA, NAI, Interactive Advertising Bureau, Association of National Advertisers, among others) are table stakes. Going above and beyond laws and ethics codes are business decisions that may provide a competitive edge.

So what did I do on Data Privacy Day 2020? You’re reading it!  Share with me any efforts you may have taken on that day in the “public” comments below.

Earn Consumer Trust Through ‘Surprise and Delight’ in a Post-Privacy Age

Recent consumer research from Pew Research Center shows we have some work to do persuading consumers to let us use data about them for marketing. Right now, the risks seem to outweigh the benefits, in consumers’ view. At least for now.

Recent consumer research from Pew Research Center shows we have some work to do persuading consumers to let us use data about them for marketing. Right now, the risks seem to outweigh the benefits, in consumers’ view. At least for now.

Marketing may be an annoyance to some — but too often, it’s conflated by consumers (and privacy advocates, and some policymakers) to our detriment into real privacy abuses, like identity theft, or hypothetical or imagined outcomes, such as higher insurance or interest rates — to which clearly marketing data has no connection.

There needs to be a bright line affixed between productive economic use of data (such as for marketing) — and unacceptable uses (such as discrimination, fraud, and other ills).

As consumers feel they have lost all data control — perhaps one might describe the current state as “post-privacy” — it is doubtful the answer to consumer trust lies in more legal notices pushed to them online. Consumers also have told Pew the emerging cascade of notices are not well understood or helpful.

Consumer Trust
Image Source: Pew Research Center, 2019

When Pew explores more deeply the root of what consumers find acceptable and unacceptable, opportunities for marketers may indeed arise. For example, the study summary states:

“One aim of the data collection done by companies is for the purpose of profiling customers and potentially targeting the sale of goods and services to them, based on their traits and habits. This survey finds that 77% of Americans say they have heard or read at least a bit about how companies and other organizations use personal data to offer targeted advertisements or special deals, or to assess how risky people might be as customers. About 64% of all adults say they have seen ads or solicitations based on their personal data. And 61% of those who have seen ads based on their personal data say the ads accurately reflect their interests and characteristics at least somewhat well. (That amounts to 39% of all adults.)”

This is why regulating privacy — from self-regulation to public policy — is so challenging. A broad brush is not the right tool. We want to preserve the innovation, we want to improve consumer experiences, while giving consumers meaningful protection from data use practices that are harmful and antithetical to their interests.

An Industry Luminary Lends Her Perspective

Image: Martha Rogers, Ph.D. (LinkedIn)

Martha Rogers, Ph.D., who co-authored the seminal book “The One to One Future”with Don Peppers in 1993, helped to usher in the customer relationship management (CRM) movement. Today, CRM  often manifests itself in brands seeking to map customer journeys and to devise better customer experiences, and a lot of business investment in data and technology.

Reflecting on privacy last month in New York, Rogers said, “The truth of the matter is, we always judge ourselves by our intentions. Yet we judge others by their actual actions. The problem is that everyone is doing the same thing with us [as marketers].”

How much of that business spending resonates with consumers? “When 400 chief executive officers were asked if their companies provided superior customer experiences, 80 — that’s eight-zero — percent said ‘yes.’ Yet only 8% of customers said that companies were providing superior customer experience. Customers also judge us by our actions, not by our intentions.”

Rogers told two “surprise and delight” stories that illustrate how powerful smart data collection, analysis, and application can be.

“We need customer data to get the job done. A regular Ritz-Carlton customer I know once asked hotel staff for a hyper-allergenic pillow for his room. Now when he goes to a Ritz-Carlton, he always has a hyper-allergenic pillow in his room. He told me he just loved how the Ritz-Carlton had changed over all its pillows to hyper-allergenic ones.”  Rogers said she didn’t have the heart to tell him it was just his room — and the hotel simply had recorded, honored, and anticipated his preference.

Another story came from insurer USAA. Upon returning from tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, USAA sent a refund on auto insurance premiums in the form of a live check and a letter. The letter thanked the soldiers for their service, and reasoned that a car must not have been used much or at all, while a soldier was overseas — hence, the refund. “Do you know 2500 of these checks were returned by customers, uncashed?” Rogers reported, noting that many of these military families have limited means. “Wow, stay strong … keep your money — some of the policy holders said to the company. How do you compete in that category if you’re another insurance company?”

These two cases both show smart data collectoin — applied — builds customer trust and loyalty, no matter what their feelings may be about privacy, in general.

“There are three reasons why we care about privacy,” Rogers said. “One is because there are criminals out there. We don’t want to give data to the robbers or the hackers. Second is because some of us do have secrets — and I’m not naming any names. And we don’t want people knowing every blessed thing about us. And the third reason that we just want our privacy is because [our lives] can be embarrassing.”

Consumer Trust Is Like a Pencil Eraser

“Privacy in an interconnected world is a pipe dream, an oxymoron,” she continued. “Still, we have to access and use customer data to give those great customer experiences. So what happens now? We have to do things [with data] that are good for customers, and not for ourselves [as marketing organizations]. Regulations and laws are really just a floor.”

“If you want to be truly trust-able, it’s about doing things right. One lie can ruin a thousand truths,” she said. “Trust is sort of like the eraser on a pencil. It gets smaller and smaller with each mistake we make. So we have to be careful. Do things right. Do the right thing. Be proactive.”

“No matter how fantastic technology is, it can’t top that trust,” she said.

How many Ritz-Carltons and USAAs — surprise and delight — does it take to undo a Cambridge Analytica or an Equifax? I’m actually optimistic on this. Because better customer experiences, brand relevance, and resonance through data insights will continue to win. We just have to prove it, to the customer, millions of times, one by one, every day — in the very important data-driven marketing work we do.


What’s the Price on ‘My Data’? Let the Marketplace Set the Rate

A bipartisan bill in Congress would assign the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission with the task of determining what consumer data is worth; at least when it comes to Big Digital giants. So what’s my data worth?

A bipartisan bill in Congress would assign the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission with the task of determining what consumer data is worth; at least when it comes to Big Digital giants. So what’s my data worth?

On the face of it, having the government mirror the private sector, and recognize that consumer data is a valuable asset, is actually quite wise. Data is worth something — and accounting rules, risk management, capitalism, and a reverence for asset protection — all point to a need to understand data’s worth and secure it accordingly. But should the government come up with the arithmetic? Really? And why limit this to Big Digital … data drives all economy sectors!

If this is about commerce and productivity, and facilitating next-generation accounting and capitalism, then I’d be all gung-ho. If it’s about setting the stage for just being punitive, then perhaps we can and must do better.

Take privacy. I’m already getting click fatigue — with permission notices on every site I want to visit, as well as the apps I use, it’s no wonder people are questioning if laws like GDPR and CCPA really afford any meaningful privacy protection at all, as well-intended as they may be. Privacy is personally defined — though universal principles need apply. Again, I think we can and must do better.

Recognizing data’s value — as the fuel for today’s economy — means recognizing data’s limitless beneficial uses (and encouraging such uses and further innovation), while putting a no-go ring around unreasonable uses (like throwing elections).

Business Efforts to Calculate Data’s Worth

“My data” is a misnomer. On the data valuation front, we from the direct marketing world — purveyors of personally identifiable information (PII) — have been putting a price on data for years … and understand data’s value, intrinsically. Big reveal: It’s not about me. (Sorry, Taylor Swift.)

Worldata, for example, has been tracking list prices for decades, and dutifully reporting on this. In the world of direct response, there’s “sweat equity” in both response and compiled lists. For response lists, some enterprise built a list of customers (or donors). The value of that list is derived from the shared attribute those customers have – and not, as some privacy advocates would have it, with the sum of one individual after another appearing on that list. With compiled lists, observable data is harnessed and staged also for marketing use – providing a more complete view of prospects and customers. Again, the value is derived from the attributes that data subjects share.

Even in digital data driving today’s media placement for advertising (more accurately, audience placement) — the algorithms deployed in search, social, and display — the values of these formulae are derived from affinities in these proprietary calculations, much of it anonymized from a traditional PII perspective. Yes, there are lots of data — nearly $21.2 billion in U.S. trade alone — but it’s not hoarding; it’s being put to productive use — in effect, 1:1 at mass scale.

With any innovations, there are bound to be mistakes by good companies, and some bad players, too. But it’s amazing to see how the marketplace weeds these out, over time. The marketplace, in time, weeds out the wheat from the chaff. The industry comes up with brand safety, privacy, security, chain-of-trust, and other initiatives to help facilitate more transparency and control. And testing shows which data sources are timely and reliable — and which ones where data quality is in question.

Predict This: Data Unleashed for Responsible Use Unleashes Consumer Benefits

Recently, I heard a current federal official say that data may be fuel — but it’s not like oil. Oil is finite. Data, on the other hand, is a limitless resource — like fusion. And it can be replicated. In fact, he went on to say, the more it is shared for responsible data use, the more consumers, citizens, commerce, and the economy benefit. This is correct. The commercialization of the Internet, indeed, gave us today’s global Digital Economy — giving billions access to information where they are able to derive limitless benefits.

That’s why potential breaches of data do need to be risk-assessed, prevented, understood for a likelihood of harm — with data governance and employee training thoroughly implemented. That’s also why government should investigate significant breaches to detect lax practices, and to instruct enterprises how to better protect themselves from bad actors. Here, I can see a viable SEC role, where all publicly held companies, and privately held too, are called into question – not just one type of company.

Where privacy is concerned … don’t just divide Big Digital revenue by the number of users with social accounts — and start menacing on what data about me online may be worth. That immediately starts off with a false assumption, fails to recognize information’s exponential value in the economy, and denies the incredible social benefits afforded by the digitization of information.

The Digital Advertising Alliance (a client) conducted a study in 2016, and found that consumers assign a value of nearly $1,200 a year to the “free” ad-financed content they access and rely upon via digital and mobile. However, if they were forced to pay that amount – most would not be willing (or able) to pay such a premium.

This research shows why we need to protect and facilitate ad-financed content. But it’s part of a larger discussion. It’s about why the commercialization of the Internet has been a 25-year success (happy birthday, October 24) and we must keep that moving forward. As consumers, we all have prospered! Let’s start our discussion on data valuation here.


Video Q&A: How Will AI Help Marketers Improve Retargeting & Conversion?

There’s a lot of loose talk around the potential for AI to change the nature of the marketing game, but beyond the buzz it can be hard to tell exactly how marketers will be using it to improve their businesses. In a series of video Q&A’s, marketing AI practitioner and Trust Insights co-founder Christopher Penn will explain how marketers can actually use AI.

Penn will be leading the keynote session on AI applications in marketing at the FUSE Digital Marketing Summit this November. Learn more about attending here.

Check out Penn’s previous videos:
Q: How Will AI Help Marketers Tap Their Data Wells?
Q: What Marketing Processes or Tasks Will AI Eliminate?

Q: How will AI help marketers with retargeting and sales conversion?

This is a really interesting question because one of the things that marketers struggle with is what causes a conversion. What factors, what measures, what metrics, what learners, what dimensions lead to conversion or contribute to conversion? A big part of this is the foundation of attribution analysis. What pieces of data have driven conversions in the past? And then, with things like retargeting, you’re trying to focus on predicting what things are likely to cause conversions in the future. The way AI and machine learning help with this is dealing with what are called “weak learners.”

A weak learner is any dimension or metric whose predictive power is just barely above random chance. It’s called a weak learner because it’s a weak signal. It’s not a signal that by itself is a very strong signal. So for example, the number of times someone has retweeted your tweets, right? For a fair number of businesses, that’s going to be a really weak learner. In fact, it may or may not even be statistically relevant. But at the very least that is probably going to be a weak learner.

There are also things like how many times someone has opened an email, the number of social channels someone follows you on, the pages they visited on a website, the amount of time they spent on a page.

When you think about all the data that we have access to as marketers and then we consider that most of these metrics are pretty weak, you get to start getting a sense of the scope of the problem.

We have all this data and none of it is the one answer that we’re looking for. The answer that says, “This is the thing we need to do more of.” It would be nice if it didn’t work that way. It would be nice to know you should always send email on Tuesdays, that’s going to cause all your conversions. Doesn’t happen.

So how does AI help with this? Through techniques that aggregate weak learners together and make them function as a stronger learner, we can get a sense of what combinations of dimensions and metrics matter most.

Hear Penn’s full answer to the question of how AI will enhance marketers’ ability to convert sales and retarget customers in the above video.

See Christopher Penn present the keynote session Using AI & Deep Learning to Generate Marketing Results at the FUSE Digital marketing Summit.


Almost the Ultimate in ‘Not Interested’ Segmentation

If data is the fuel that is powering today’s marketing engine, Google has discovered a real gusher. Google, or any other AI-aided advertising sales effort, can add these datasets to already copious databases and use them as the almost ultimate tool to segment advertising messages to people most likely to be interested in them and to avoid sending ads in specific categories to those people who have signaled they are “not interested.”

I couldn’t quite believe my eyes.

Peter J. Rosenwald illustration one
Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

That “i” with a circle around it and the accompanying “X” may have been there before, but I must never have noticed. They certainly didn’t leap off the page at me (that’s why I added the arrow) and would have had a hard time competing for attention with those cool 3D T-shirts.

Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

But there they were, hiding in the upper right hand corner of lots of ads, placed every five paragraphs or so by those lovable folks at Google, certainly intended to interrupt my reading of every salacious breaking news story about the White House and porn star Stormy Daniels (upright in real life, Ms. Stephanie Clifford).

Seduced away from learning the latest secrets of how to earn $130,000 for allegedly having a soft porn one-nighter with a presidential candidate who, between rallies imploring the U.S. electorate to make America great again, found time for a little R & R, I became intrigued by those mysterious letters and moved my cursor to discover what they were telling me.

Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

OK as far as it went, but by now in a state of aroused curiosity about the encircled “i” and accompanying “X,” I wanted to know more. Click on the encircled “i” and it takes you to AdSense, a website providing everything you ever wanted to know but perhaps never thought to ask, about Google’s targeted advertising and data protection policies.

Click on the “X” and here is what you get.

Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

Google has now neatly positioned me to click on “Stop seeing this ad” or “Ads by Google,” un-highlighted and again accompanied by the encircled “i.” Addicted as I am to Sherlock Holmes, I felt compelled to move ahead and to click the “Stop” button.

But before I did, I began wondering; what’s in this for Google other than having delivered a possibly unwanted ad, then creating a nice warm “feel good” atmosphere. It’s rather like the guest who tracks mud into your living room, and then apologizes and promises to try not to do it again.

Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

Now I get it.

It’s a brilliantly laid back survey generating invaluable data about;

  • Those “Not interested in this ad,” those on whom promotion money for this category should not be wasted.

The first time I clicked on “Not interested,” I was taken to a section of the site which showed me a wide range of interest categories and asked me to eliminate those for which I had no interest. As I’d indicate one, it would go away and another one would pop up in what became an endless five-minute project. Wanting to show it here, I tried again to find it, but Google had obviously gotten what it wanted from me and it mysteriously disappeared.

  • Those who didn’t have anything against the specific category but had seen it “multiple” times (too many), that number informing Google to limit the ad frequency for this person;
  • Those who consider the ad “inappropriate,” a clear signal to Google to send only “Jello’” ads here; no “Tamale flavored hot, spicy yogurt.”
  • When I clicked on “Ad-covered content,” I received a message that the ad had been ‘closed’ by Google, nothing else that might have explained what “Ad-covered content” might have meant.

If data is the fuel that is powering today’s marketing engine, Google has discovered a real gusher. Google, or any other AI-aided advertising sales effort, can add these datasets to already copious databases and use them as the almost ultimate tool to segment advertising messages to people most likely to be interested in them and to avoid sending ads in specific categories to those people who have signaled they are “not interested.”

It’s a win, win. For Google, because it should be a very sexy addition to its advertising sales platform. For advertisers, who must applaud a new ability not to spend the marketing budget talking to people who do not wish to hear their message.

Crossing the Line Creates Cross Customers

It’s no new news that brands track our purchases and then send us coupons, promotions, special offers and “news” that fit our shopping patterns. That’s cool. Bring it on as, in most cases, we win with worthwhile discounts, loyalty rewards, and such that pay off in one way or another.

“ad,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by Eugene Peretz

It’s no new news that brands track our purchases and then send us coupons, promotions, special offers and “news” that fit our shopping patterns. That’s cool. Bring it on as, in most cases, we win with worthwhile discounts, loyalty rewards, and such that pay off in one way or another.

We expect this kind of personalized communications for simple products bought at Wal-Mart, Target, Amazon and so on. In most cases, we all know its happening, and its okay because its data that is not threatening. Who cares if Walmart knows I buy Newman’s spaghetti sauce, or that I have a fetish for glitter green nail polish? Right?

But, with all of the new technology available to track, monitor and influence consumers’ purchasing behavior in real-time, the game is changing.

We now are being listened to on our social sites so Facebook and others can serve us up ads for products we just browsed and might have left in our shopping cart, upping its profits if the social network can get us to go back and buy.

And we are being watched by big data users when we go to the store physically — not just online.

And for most — myself, included — this doesn’t feel so good.

Consider this: When out of town, shopping at a store where I don’t usually shop, I bought mouse traps as I unwittingly let one of these unpleasant creatures in my house. That night, while opening up the Solitaire app on my iPhone to help me find sleep, an ad for that very brand and type of mousetrap appeared on my phone. Odd, but I noted that someone was possibly tracking my purchases via my credit card and then appending that to my phone. Okay. Not what I signed up for, but I understood it — at least for this one purchase.

Then consider this: My husband went to the store and used his credit card to buy a little-known brand of gluten free bread — two uncommon variables, right there. Within the hour, an ad for that very brand and product showed up on MY phone, not his, but MY phone. Suddenly “watching” my purchases and those of my family is not okay with me any more, and it conjured up a lot of “what ifs.”

What if:

  • My husband had just bought me a 2-carat sapphire ring and wanted to keep it a surprise?
  • What if my husband had just bought medication for an illness he had not told me about yet?
  • And what if I were advertising my house on VRBO for holiday rentals and somehow my phone number on the listing was associated with that mousetrap purchase and all potential renters saw an ad in their side bar about mouse traps? That could conjure up a lot of yucky feelings, unconsciously, which could be unintentionally associated with my listing.

The list goes on … and so do:

The Questions All of Us Marketers Must Ask Ourselves

At what point does data tracking, customer profiling and targeted, automated marketing cross the line from “personalized customer service and care” to “creepy, stalkerish behavior” that makes consumers feel exposed, vulnerable and just downright uncomfortable?

How you answer this question and adapt your automated marketing messages and campaigns is critical. You might argue that our devices are anonymized and that brands really don’t know who goes with what IP address or device codes. But is this really accurate in terms of the possibility to pinpoint specifics about individuals? Consider the following example from an article posted on DeZyre.com.

An office supply store sent a customer a promotional letter and set up the personalization process to reference a personal detail or transaction on the envelope. In this case, that personalized envelope “teaser” was “Daughter killed in car crash.” That was not information he had opted to share with this office supply store, and clearly not information that was related to anything the store needed to know to offer him more laser pointers or copy paper at a discount. It is information that clearly was gleaned from other sources about his personal life and potentially legal or government records; which, clearly, he did not volunteer to a store for customer service purposes.

Be Honest — With Yourselves

Again, managers and servers of big data maintain that their promotional messages are sent to devices that are anonymized, so no secrets are revealed and consumers are not exposed. But at the end of the day, is it really? Any database that has customer transactions that also contains devices, IP addresses and names can be tracked back to an individual. Just ask the FBI, CIA, Mueller and any other investigative unit.

And is it really anonymized when social listening takes place? Track your conversations online and see what ads pop up shortly thereafter.

Beyond asking yourselves where you should cross the line, ask consumers how they feel about ads that “creep” up outside of personalized coupons you send via an opt-in program. I did just that on my Facebook page and here’s what came back from consumers:

  • “Scary and happening more frequently. Not okay.”
  • “It bothers me to no end. Once I started noticing it, I have become increasingly aware of it and it scares the $%^( out of me.”
  • “If I don’t sign up for it, it bothers me.”
  • “I always find it creepy when I’ve been looking/shopping for something and all of a sudden I get an ad for it.”
  • “Time to live off the grid and pay cash.”
  • “This is very scary.”
  • “No way!”

If consumers are scared of what you know about them, its time to rethink that proverbial line. Don’t cross it just because you can or because you’ve invested in the technology that automatically delivers those ads, so you have to use it fully to get your promised ROI. Think about how you can use this amazing data and technology for real-time marketing across devices and channels in ways that actually please customers vs. scare them, like inviting them to opt in like we have for so many other channels.

It’s not just a courtesy to involve customers in the decision to watch them in order to serve them really relevant timely ads, it’s critical to our future as an industry. How? Because if we don’t do it, we will likely increase more of those opt-outs and even legal regulations that will force us to stop communicating despite honest and good intentions we might have.

Consequences for Marketers

Think about it. Consumers have spoken up about getting harassed on the phone by opting into the “do not call” list. Consumers have shut down unwanted emails by advocating against spam and assuring they have a choice to opt out. Brands that spam are blacklisted and shut down by email servers as a result.

Just these two examples of consumer backlash have impacted the way we communicate with consumers and laws have been passed that we can’t get around. If we continue to serve “anonymized” ads to personal devices on apps that are personal, like my Solitaire game, are we setting ourselves up for more regulation — in addition to increased opt-outs for “permission” marketing from more angry, frustrated consumers who leave our brand to patronize one that doesn’t follow their every move?

As marketers, we have a big responsibility not to just do our jobs and fuel sales and lifetime value, but to consumers and our customers to preserve what matters most to them: anonymity, privacy and security.

Curious about your thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Please post your thoughts, suggestions and ideas for how we can continue to use the power of personalization, big data and automated marketing for the greater good? (The greater good for us and our happy, lifelong customers.)

6 Tips for a Successful Remarketing Campaign

Who has a better chance of becoming a paying customer — a random user who is searching for relevant goods and services, or someone who was one click away from actually making a purchase on your website? The answer to this question is why remarketing is such a powerful tool in Google AdWords.

Who has a better chance of becoming a paying customer — a random user who is searching for relevant goods and services, or someone who was one click away from actually making a purchase on your website? The answer to this question is why remarketing is such a powerful tool in Google AdWords.

Your chances of scoring conversions (and improving your ROI) rises significantly among shoppers who’ve already confirmed their interests in your business.

Setting up remarketing campaigns is easy and fairly straightforward. But like any other aspect of online advertising, you won’t get the most from remarketing unless you pay close attention to the details. Read on for six tips for boosting the success of your remarketing campaigns.

1. Start with Top-Performing Campaigns

A full-scale plunge into remarketing could significantly increase your AdWords costs. For the best ROI while minimizing cost increases, consider focusing your remarketing efforts on your top-performing campaigns.

This is the lowest hanging fruit because you know your offer works and it’s just a matter of squeezing more conversions out of the campaign. Then, once you gain more experience, expand to other campaigns in your account.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Bid Aggressively

A Wordstream study found that, although remarketing click-through rates declined over time, conversion rates nearly doubled among shoppers who viewed ads twice! That’s a huge bump, and it’s worth bidding more than what you’d pay for typical ad placements.

Remember, with remarketing you’re showing your ads to prospects who already expressed interest in your product or service.  This tends to lead to higher conversion rates and lower cost per sale.

Of course, not all website visitors should be treated equally. Prioritize and bid more aggressively for the visitors who made it further down the sales funnel.  For example, a visitor who made it to the order form and then left is more likely to convert via remarketing than a visitor who left the site after reading just one page.

3. Make Remarketing Campaigns for Known Customers

Remarketing is great for connecting with interested shoppers, but don’t forget about actual customers. You can specifically target people who’ve made purchases or requested more information. Do this with tailor-made campaigns that advertise new goods and services.

Remarketing is also a great way to inform your known customers about sales, discounts and other special offers. These campaigns are more likely to resonate with people who’ve already built up trust in your business.

4. Take Advantage of Broad Keywords

Broad-match terms are often viewed as the kryptonite of keyword lists. They’re vague and nonspecific. They’ll get you a ton of traffic for cheap, but a good chunk of that traffic won’t be from interested shoppers.

Unless it’s a remarketing campaign!

Broad-match keywords are fantastic with remarketing, because you’re only targeting interested shoppers. For example, if you owned a house painting business, normally you wouldn’t want to use “paint” as a keyword because you’d get too much irrelevant traffic from other searches. (The top related searches for “paint” on Google include “paint games,” “paint Microsoft” and “paint app.”)

However, if you’re targeting people who’ve already shown interest in your business, then you don’t need to worry so much about them finding you again with a paint-related search — even if it’s not entirely relevant.

Taking advantage of cheaper broad-match keywords can re-engage shoppers more quickly and at reduced costs.

5. Offer Special Discounts to Shopping Cart Bouncers

There are all kinds of reasons why people leave websites without buying what’s in their shopping carts. Sometimes, people just get busy or distracted. Other times, they may have second thoughts. Whatever the reason, these folks were, at one point, just a quick checkout away from becoming paying customers.

Thanks to remarketing, you can target ads specifically toward shoppers who bailed from your shopping cart page. Why not incentivize them to finish what they started by offering them an attractive coupon?

6. Don’t Pester Shoppers

Remarketing is a great tool for engaging with interested shoppers, but put yourself in the consumer’s perspective. What do you feel when you’re bombarded with the same ads either online or on TV? Chances are, you don’t like it. Neither does your advertising audience.

Fortunately, you can avoid this by adjusting the duration and frequency capping settings within your remarketing campaigns. The duration is how long your ads follow each shopper. With frequency capping, you can set how many times a person sees your remarketing ads per day or per week or per month.


Remarketing is a powerful tool for putting your ads in front of shoppers who you already know are interested in what you’re selling. To be able to communicate directly with these potential customers is a huge advantage, and that’s reflected by generally higher CTRs and conversion rates among remarketing campaigns.

That said, remarketing is not guaranteed to work without the right optimization techniques, which we’ve reviewed in this post. Follow these tips, and you’ll be well on your way toward reconnecting with shoppers who are already close to becoming your customers.

Want more tips to improve your Google AdWords performance?  Click here to get a copy of our Ultimate Google AdWords Checklist.