Digital advertising in 2019 is about making the best solutions with the least amount of data, as user privacy concerns continue to escalate.
Whether it be through watching the new Cambridge Analytica documentary on Netflix or seeing Facebook’s record fine in the US last week, users are more and more conscious of their privacy and data security today than ever before.
Google earlier this week revealed Australians visited its MyAccount page more than 22 million times in 2017 to update their privacy settings, while search interest for ‘My Activity’ has increased 1,000 per cent since 2016 globally.
So what does an increasingly privacy-conscious consumer base mean for digital platforms and advertisers?
“For us [Google], it means finding the smallest amount of data possible to provide a really useful service for someone,” said Google Australia’s managing director Mel Silva (pictured) in Sydney on Wednesday.
“For advertising, it is the smallest amount of data that you need to provide an exceptional ad experience.”
Silva was speaking just days after the government handed down the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry report, which Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said showed the need for platforms like Google and Facebook to be “held to account” for their market dominance.
Google has since said it “welcomes efforts to better understand our business”.
During her presentation on Wednesday, Silva painted the ACCC report as being part of the global shift towards a privacy-led approach, comparing it with the EU’s GDPR reforms.
“We’ve already seen some pretty sweeping changes in our industry in response to user concerns,” she said.
“Ultimately all of these conversations about data and privacy need to be centred on the consumer.
“[Privacy] is not a luxury good that should be afforded only to people who can afford to have premium products and services.
“The burden should not be on a consumer to choose and have to think about ‘where I get certain settings and where I don’t.'”
However, for advertisers, customer expectations around privacy have been coupled with a growing demand for personalised and smarter solutions – a combination which on some levels looks contradictory.
Silva pointed to the value of automation and machine learning in creating powerful yet privacy-focussed solutions.
“Thanks to machine learning, we’re getting a lot better at matching these ads with the most relevant context by providing insights around the audiences that are visiting a website or an app,” she said.
She gave the example of an algorithm identifying the potential links between a user that has shown interest in exercise classes and a user that might want to know about healthy meal delivery services.
“To do this we don’t need behavioural signals.
“This kind of thinking is really going to help everyone create more relevant user experiences but also meet user expectations when it comes to privacy.”
She also urged businesses to build a “robust first-party data ecosystem”.
“It’s going to be crucial for you to build these direct relationships with your consumers, understand what their preferences are, so you can provide a more nuanced opportunity to understand and respect their privacy preferences.”