Our personal data has huge value to businesses, and as more and more consumers become aware of just how much their digital footprint is worth, brands will need to be increasingly cautious of how they reach out to online audiences. It’s now incumbent on the industry to leverage data in a creative way so as to be relevant to target consumers’ personality and interests, while never overstepping the bounds of privacy and consent.
Just look at the scandal currently plaguing Facebook. The most frequented social network in Asia Pacific and across the globe, Facebook has been heavily criticised in recent weeks for accidentally granting unauthorised access to the data of 50 million users. Analytics firm Cambridge Analytica illicitly procured this treasure trove of personal data about people on Facebook and used it to target US voters in the 2016 presidential election—leading to controversy for Facebook, and widespread concern amongst social media users about what happens to information they share online.
The Facebook data scandal reveals a number of pressing questions and implications for marketers in APAC. With digital campaigns expected to account for more than 50 percent of the region’s advertising budgets by 2019, brands are under new pressure to reach a digitally tuned-in audience while using data in a way that doesn’t alienate consumers; or in the worst cases, break privacy and data consent laws.
The first major question for marketers is how to overcome damaged consumer trust. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has called the scandal “a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it,” and indeed, distrust of social media is on the rise. In this context, brands must be careful not to scare away consumers by using their data in a brazen way.
A pure programmatic advertising strategy, for example, could antagonise potential consumers. Already, online audiences are becoming suspicious and uncomfortable when they see their search history repeated back to them in the form of banner advertisements. It can feel like even more of a privacy violation when content sent or received via a personal email account is used for ad targeting. All marketers have a role to play in rebuilding consumer trust, which starts with not only using data in a legal and responsible way, but also moving toward integrated strategies that make advertising relevant and engaging, rather than creepy.
Another implication of Facebook’s data leak is that marketers will now be looking to use data in smarter, more refined ways. After all, personal information is still a valuable resource in the world of advertising. It will continue to inform the best strategies and provide deep insight into why some campaigns are more effective than others; and the future of marketing should involve a more nuanced, more sophisticated role for data.
For example, FOX Content Labs is leveraging data and analytics to get back to the roots of storytelling, for the digital age. When data revealed that a broad range of tourists are interested in taking a cycling holiday in Taiwan, FOX Content Labs helped the Taiwan Tourism Bureau reach a diverse, multinational audience by working with a varied group of influencers to create on-the-road cycling content. The video and photo content showed off the Taiwan bicycle adventures of not just professional cyclists, but also people interested in a casual cycle experience; for example, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Alonso Wurtzbach.
Finally, a third repercussion of the data scandal is that marketers must be ready to accommodate brands wanting to move away from a purely social media strategy. While sites like Facebook have unquestionably changed the game for marketers in terms of helping them reach a highly targeted, deeply engaged audience in a cost-effective manner, social media users are becoming less loyal—and brands have taken note. The hashtag #DeleteFacebook went viral following news of the site’s data leak, and businesses that advertise on Facebook are concerned that this could be just the beginning.
Marketers can support the brands they work with by developing integrated strategies which are bolstered by, but not wholly dependent on, social media. With an advertising strategy that extends across multiple touchpoints, brands will have a much better chance at engaging target audiences. This is particularly true in APAC, where traditional TV content is still popular amongst people of all ages even as online entertainment becomes more and more prevalent as well. Through integrated strategies that reach consumers on social and beyond, brands can best capitalise on APAC’s “and and” attitude of digital and linear content consumption.
In the end, there’s no question that data will always have an important role to play in the world of marketing. It is now our job to show brands how to leverage insight and information, without ever violating consumers’ expectations of online privacy. With a stronger focus on storytelling and integrated strategies, marketers will be best positioned to deliver campaigns which are relevant and engaging, but never exploitative of personal data.
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|Michael Rich is EVP of advertising sales and content partnerships at FOX Networks Group Asia.|