Today at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) Annual Leadership Meeting, which draws industry leaders from around the world to discuss trends and the future of the online marketplace, I delivered a keynote that I hope will spark industry dialogue and debate. As a member of the IAB board of directors, I have participated in the development of self-regulation practices and policies, such as our groundbreaking new Code of Conduct that was announced yesterday. In my speech, I talked about how we could expand on this approach. My perspective is that if we view and treat data as inseparably linked to consumers, not something that is simply there to be extracted from those consumers, we can gain new value and opportunities for consumers, advertisers and publishers alike.
At its core, the Internet is based on a trust relationship between publishers and consumers. But as an industry, we sometimes seem to be okay with a digital version of “don’t ask, don’t tell” when it comes to data collection conversations – and more often than not, the consumer is left out of these conversations.
We have to acknowledge that there is a better way – that creating a more equitable exchange of data, where there is even more tangible value given and received between advertisers, publishers and consumers, is something we should strive for.
Industry players, large and small, need to evolve.
This will take time, as there are many issues that are creating inefficiencies in the market, such as siloed data, unclear data valuation, and an environment that is still not as transparent as it could or should be. If we can make progress on these, as well as shift our thinking about data in general, we may be in a position to unlock new value for advertisers and publishers, and offer more engaging and relevant experiences for end-user consumers.
Just think about the potential richness of data that a person generates when he or she goes online to search, buy, view content, etc. This mountain of data continues to grow with the billions of page views, transactions, downloads and search queries that happen every day, across a myriad of different devices.
What we do with this data in a trusted environment—how we monetize, manage and protect it—will determine the extent to which Internet advertising grows in the future.
At the same time, we must realize that people want more clarity, simplicity and control of their data.
What if…people were given more control over their online data? This could actually unlock new economic potential for the entire online ecosystem, and create new value for consumers as well as publishers/advertisers.
How do we begin?
- We need to actively change the dialogue with consumers from “privacy fears” to “data as an asset.” The latter provides an opportunity for deeper connections, more trusted relationships and enhanced value for all parties;
- We need to engage and educate consumers, to give them a voice and build a bridge to mutual understanding and benefit;
- We need to think through how we could substantially enhance the value of data for all parties; and
- We need to strengthen the dialogue between regulators and industry on the issue of personal data on the Internet, rather than seeing regulatory bodies as the “other side.” The more they know about the issues and opportunities we are seeing, the more likely they are to work with us for mutual benefit.
At a more tangible level, to assume leadership over this issue, we’re suggesting that the IAB:
- Establish a Consumer Council within the IAB – a body that will ensure the “voice of the consumer” is represented in all our internal deliberations about privacy and data;
- Extend the self-regulatory programs, such as the uniform Code of Conduct, that govern how we as publishers and marketers should—and should not—use data.
- And third, make publisher education a priority in the IAB’s own newly formed Data Initiative. We can’t fix a problem if even we don’t fully know how data is being used, traded or exchanged on our own sites.
We realize that this is an issue with many different angles, and one that has the ability to stir passionate debate. Rather that run from these issues, though, the time has come to bring them out into the open and encourage this kind of debate, not turn away from it.
Rik van der Kooi, corporate vice president of Advertiser & Publisher Solutions group