Walking the PII Talk

AdExchanger was out recently with a great primer on how to evaluate an identity solution. The tl;dr is to respect privacy, focus on value, enhance data for targeting, and create a single view of the customer. 

Yes! Yes, yes, yes!

It’s obvious, right? So…why aren’t more companies doing all these things? 

Wait, you’re not supposed to ask that question! That’s personal! Rather, that’s actually personally identifiable information (PII) making all those things possible. And PII is hard, especially when compared to the anything-goes-for-as-cheap-as-possible world of cookies. 

So what to do if you don’t deal in PII? Well, you’ve gotta sling some buzzwords and hope no one digs too deep. 

As the tech behemoths change rules and state lawmakers do their thing around privacy legislation, data vendors are going to have to make changes on the fly. Some will go under. Others will try to slop on a fresh coat of paint and hope you don’t notice the rust underneath. Just a handful will actually be able to deliver what you want. 

Yes, there are solid criteria laid out in the AdExchanger article. Keep it in your back pocket as a handy checklist when evaluating your data partners. BUT…allow me to arm you with one more checklist I think you’ll find helpful. One you’ll want to keep in your front pocket, if I may be so forward. 

That would be a list of the red flags to watch out for when evaluating a new or current solution. If you see any of these in your dealings with data providers, your guard should be up. 

Red flags to avoid when dealing with data providers:

🚩 #1: There’s no ability to deduplicate. If you can’t match a single individual back to a single version of the truth, that’s a problem. Some 80% of media-based data players rely on anonymized records. They don’t know who’s who, how many profiles are actually the same person, and what that person’s opt-in and opt-out preferences are across profiles. If you don’t have that info, you’re likely hitting people over and over with messages that are not just annoying and irrelevant, but possibly outside of evolving ethical and legal boundaries.

🚩 #2: Volume is being pushed above performance. Of course, marketers want sizable audiences for their campaigns. But the right audience doesn’t always mean the largest one. It certainly shouldn’t come at the expense of the right results. A volume play may have flown when the privacy rules were loose and the data cheap, but it’s a new world. Data is getting more expensive, privacy guidelines have become a tightrope walk and there’s simply no room for a half-baked spray-and-pray approach built upon unqualified data. The best campaigns will be a bit pricier, target less people, be based around privacy protected, deduplicated, permissioned data, and – get this – actually perform better!

🚩 #3: They emphasize open rates over clicks. Email marketing was the Wild West for a long time. Now, players like Apple seeking to differentiate on privacy, are going to start obscuring open rates. This is a good thing! Actual engagement is a far better measure of campaign performance. In 2021 and beyond, click-based metrics should be a focus. This data becomes infinitely more valuable when you can actually match it back to a real person and postal address to understand if they ultimately made a purchase. This is only possible with a PII-driven approach. 

Make no mistake, following the steps noted in AdExchanger and avoiding the red flags cited above means making an investment. So many data players got into the game because cookies were cheap. Scrape billions of identities and throw’em into a database. Grand opening!

To get PII level detail to a level that’s actionable is hard. It means getting physical addresses correct (good luck relying on the post office alone for that). Making sure emails are accurate. Properly attributing digital device IDs. Understanding consumption data and interest levels. IT MEANS PROPERLY SAFEGUARDING ALL OF THIS INFO. Sorry for all caps but this is just all so critical. 

It comes back to something you’ll hear us preach over and over again on this blog: getting to that single version of the truth. Data costs are on the rise and comprise an increasing percentage of overall campaign spends. 

Spend wisely and you’re on your way to well-targeted, cost-effective campaigns that respect consumer privacy, play by the right rules, and are positioned for success.

Get in touch if you’d like to learn more.
Steve Horne

Author Steve Horne

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