Editor’s Letter: The Complex Question of Personal Data and How Marketers Are Using It

Our latest Digital Transformation Playbook explores the consequences

Access is a marketer’s dream, but what about the consumers? Photo Illustration: Yuliya Kim; Sources: Getty Images
Headshot of James Cooper

Thanks to our now constant use of smartphones, the personal data that we shed out into the world has never been richer, more nuanced and, well, revealing. Having access to that is a marketer’s dream, but how that information is used has real consequences for consumers from whom it is collected.

There is the annoying: We’ve all been stalked by brands we express just a glancing, if not accidental, interest in. Using our data, they follow us around our daily journeys with ads, even after we have purchased the product they want us to purchase again and again.

Then there is the insidious. The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica debacle, ongoing relentless hacking, scamming, phishing and fraud, and general digital malfeasance and skullduggery show our data sets can expose us to misinformation and real potential harm.

In the face of this new data economy, GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), the European attempt to safeguard data privacy, is causing both a lot of hand wringing and a ton of investment in compliance systems by media agencies and brands. Those same companies, however, are also basing their future success on data capture and manipulation in order to connect more fluidly with the consumer whose business they are desperate to keep in the face of disruption—a digital Catch-22.

Americans in particular are pretty cavalier with their data and have a far lower value exchange threshold than other parts of the world, especially Europe, from where GDPR sprung. Just watch a few episodes of the most recent season of Black Mirror to get a strong taste of the dystopian view of technology and data and their impact on humanity coming out of Britain. But that may change and soon as California, the very cradle of our digital reality, considers enacting its own data privacy laws.

In this our seventh Digital Transformation Playbook in partnership with Accenture Interactive we explore this complex and ever-evolving data question.

In his opinion piece, Scott Tieman, Accenture Interactive’s managing director, takes a look at the growing power struggle to control data in the face of consumers’ tech-empowered needs. He concludes there is a lot more inertia to work through, writing “the technology and data silos that have proliferated don’t allow audience insights to be shared across channels, limiting the ability to build a single view of customers.”

But not all is gloomy. In his Q&A with Adweek technology editor Josh Sternberg, IAB CEO Randall Rothenberg points to the opportunity brands have to use first-party data to sell directly to consumers. In her infographic, Adweek departments editor Sammy Nickalls offers up stats galore on data and marketing. My fave: 44 percent of Fortune 1000 execs have started to find new innovation avenues by using big data.

We have data, therefore we are.

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This story first appeared in the May 14, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@jcoopernyc james.cooper@adweek.com James Cooper is editorial director of Adweek.
Publish date: May 13, 2018 https://dev.adweek.com/brand-marketing/editors-letter-the-complex-question-of-personal-data-and-how-its-being-used/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT