Marketers, Are You Going OOH With Data? Let Consumers Know Why

Mobile, social, and other digital media are increasingly connected to OOH advertising. One of my pet peeves is that when I’m in my home or office, or out and about, I receive real-time reminders about using my geolocation (really, a proximity). And that’s all they say. Period.

My precise location is here. Well, it was here — when I wrote this.

One of my peeves is that when I’m in my home or office, or out and about, I receive real-time reminders that this application, or that plug-in, or this website, would like to detect and use my geolocation (really, a proximity). And that’s all they say. Period.

It’s most usually a short “push notice” — combined with an “accept,” “allow,” or “OK” button to indicate my consent. Most of the time I click in the affirmative, and move on. But as a consumer, I am sometimes left curious as to why. Which is why I’m frustrated.

Notices: Give Me a Push, With a Reason to Pull

My preference would be for a slightly longer notice explaining why my location would be helpful — for the digital property to induce or invite me to send my acceptance more readily.

  • Is my known location being used to improve my user experience, by unlocking a functionality that is location-dependent?
  • Is it to serve interest-based ads on the site or app that are location-relevant?
  • Is such data shared with anyone else — and if so, why?
  • Is it a combination of these?

Sometimes, the need for geolocation is a seemingly obvious request. To use an app for maps, traffic, weather or news pertinent to my location is certainly agreeable. I get it. But if there are reasons beyond user utility, a consumer ought to know what those other purposes are. And I’m not talking about a paragraph buried in Terms and Conditions or Privacy Policies — as important as those disclosures are.

Take advertising. I actually opt for data collection to enable more relevant ads. I understand why such ads exist — and use far more free services, content, and conveniences that are paid for by sponsors and advertisers, who gain access data about me, than I would otherwise pay for myself. Most Americans — and probably most global citizens — like free stuff and increasingly understand this pragmatic, useful exchange. It just doesn’t need to be behind a curtain. There should be no mystery.

This is where self-regulation (disclaimer, I work for the Digital Advertising Alliance, DAA) and privacy-by-design step in: Just tell me why you want to use it! And let me make an informed decision regarding my consent.

Location Data Has Sensitivity — So Transparency and Choice Must Be Heightened

Location data can be sensitive. Advertising may be a helpful use — but what of stalking, civil rights, employer monitoring, government surveillance? And even advertising has a “no” factor, if an algorithm inadvertently discriminates, or a “creep” concern if you feel you’re being unwittingly followed (that is, your device) around a shopping mall or grocery store. (Even if I get a coupon offer.)

So, if we are — as we should — going to be transparent with a push notice, make it short, sweet — and explain in short copy why it is helpful to consumer experience. It only takes a phrase, or a bullet point or two, to explain how and why such data collection serves such outcomes.

That was a key point that Senny Boone, SVP of accountability for the Association of National Advertisers, explained at a recent presentation, which was sponsored by Geopath, a location-based marketing trade organization; and PMD Media, a targeted outdoor and digital advertising firm.

“Business needs to grow. New growth is based on new data and new information provided by consumer interaction, behavior, and insights,” she said, noting the rising importance of place-based information. “Consumers seek more data privacy as business and technology provide less privacy protection and more data tracking — or that is the perception.”

So are we in a conflict with the consumer here? Is this loss of privacy perception accurate?

We shouldn’t be in conflict — if we believe in transparency, she said, and have privacy and a consumer focus in our brand culture.

If you adhere to codes brought forth by our trade associations — both advertising and out-of-home — which largely have synced up in line with DAA Principles, then you are in good company, Boone said.

Give Me One Reason to Stay Here and I’ll Turn Right Back Around

This is particularly true regarding geolocation data, where enhanced notice through push notifications are required — but with a rationale as part of the push. Only then can meaningful consumer consent be given. Last month, two BBB National Programs enforcement cases, successfully resolved, highlighted the need for such enhanced notice. One case involved a fitness app specifically seeking to use location data for interest-based advertising. Takeaway: Use the enhanced notice for location data consent to explain why.

Boone went on to say that mobile, social, and other digital media are increasingly connected to out-of-home (OOH) advertising. She pointed to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America code that says:

We support responsible use of data for advertising purposes. We recognize that mobile phone and digital technology bring benefits to consumers seeking information, way-finding, entertainment, and connection to others. Increasingly, mobile-social-and-online media are connected to OOH advertising. We encourage member companies to work with suppliers that provide appropriate notice and control for the collection of precise location data from mobile phone devices used for advertising purposes. Anticipating technological changes, OAAA will continue to monitor developments in this area.”

Yes, that digital billboard you’re standing near may be wanting to interact with you. Location-based marketing is only set to grow. So make sure to undertake a data audit, know your location data partners, adhere to laws that may exist for any jurisdiction (GDPR, CCPA, etc.) — and follow industry codes for privacy ethics and best practices.

And tell me why my location is so darn useful to me as a consumer — rather than you as the marketer — when such data is sought. Not only is such explanation respectful and ethical, it serves to educate the market about why relevant ads may be that much more engaging (rather than annoying).

Perception is reality, and right now, we need to do a lot more education to get consumers — pragmatic as we are in our behavior — to get our attitudes to match.

 

 

 

 

The Importance of Being … Enforced

When you’re a marketing organization and being watched is a matter of law, the risks of non-compliance can weigh very heavy when a firm runs afoul and is caught. Few businesses can well afford litigation, fines and bad publicity, plus potential years of consent agreements with all the documentation that may be required. Brand damage.

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When you are being watched, most of us pay a little (or a lot) closer attention to what we’re doing. It’s human nature to be mindful and act accordingly.

When you’re a marketing organization and being watched is a matter of law, the risks of non-compliance can weigh very heavy when a firm runs afoul and is caught. Few businesses can well afford litigation, fines and bad publicity, plus potential years of consent agreements with all the documentation that may be required. Brand damage.

Now let’s turn to self-regulation.

When you’re a marketing organization and being watched is matter of ethics, or of best practices, the risks of non-compliance may be either heavy or light — depending on the compliance question, its marketplace implications and how cooperative the organization is to conform to industry expectations.

Self-regulation, more accurately peer regulation, is usually more preferable than direct government regulation.

For one, in data-driven marketing, innovation is a constant. Disruption is ever-present. Technology keeps changing. How can government regulation even keep up? It rarely does. That’s where self-regulation provides American business a great advantage: rules of the road get set by principle, and the market adapts to those principles.

Then, there’s enforcement of those principles. For example, I work for the Digital Advertising Alliance — a self-regulatory program based on principles for interest-based advertising and multi-site data collection for the desktop world that have been adapted for mobile and cross-device environments. I’m also a member of DMA [Direct Marketing Association], which serves as one accountability partner of DAA (the other being the Council of Better Business Bureaus Advertising Self-Regulatory Commission). These two organizations enforce DAA Principles, each in their own way. However, they are independent from DAA: Those of us who work at DAA are not privy to DMA and ASRC self-regulatory enforcement investigations, until those proceedings are made public.

Earlier this month, the DMA announced its Annual Ethics Compliance Report, which documents how businesses comply with all of DMA’s Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice. [My comments here regard the contents of the overall report, rather than those specific to DAA and interest-based advertising.]

By reading a summation of the 11,300 consumer inquiries from January 2015 to January 2016, one sees an accurate snapshot of what’s on consumers’ minds regarding our business, and how we can better address those concerns to their satisfaction. DMA reported that last year, 90 percent of cases were resolved within 30 days. Thirty-seven emerged as matters referred to the DMA Committee on Ethical Business Practice (also known as Ethics Operating Committee) for further action. Continued non-compliance, or lack of response or cooperation, can lead to a referral to a government agency, if a legal matter may be in question, or if a company may not be following its own disclosures. DMA referred at least four cases to government entities.

Self-regulation without meaningful enforcement may or may not spur ethical or best practices. But add “enforcement with teeth” to self-regulatory codes and educate industry at every turn, and lo and behold, the right result happens. The outcomes serve to protect consumers, and to protect businesses, too — all without government regulation which can prove too restrictive or quickly obsolete.