Home / Industry / Advertising /  Brands  take  a  relook  at  digital  ad  strategy  as users  guard  privacy

NEW DELHI : Big digital platforms are looking at removing like and dislike counts and restricting comments amid mounting consumer demand for measures to protect online privacy, prompting brands to mull changes too.

These steps could also act to promote users’ mental well-being and do away with practices to store copious amounts of user data often used to unleash sneaky pop-up ads.

Examples include Google’s decision to drop third-party cookies (but without withdrawing interest-based user tracking); Apple launching its iOS 14.5 update that will give users the option to permit or deny an app to track their activity; and Facebook gradually moving away from providing granular user data to advertisers.

Digital experts believe big manufacturers like Maruti Suzuki and P&G will manage to tide over these changes by investing in building first-party data pools (includes individuals’ site-wide, app-wide, and on-page behaviour). But smaller firms or online-first brands may struggle.

In addition, “advertisers are uneasy because some of them don’t have the know-how of how to build first-party data or don’t have access to an agency that could help them navigate these changes," said Abhinay Bhasin, vice-president (Asia-Pacific), data sciences, Dentsu.

Most companies also perceived maintaining first-party data as a cost and not an investment, which is a faulty approach to marketing, experts said.

First-party data is information—both online and offline —that a firm collects about individuals who interact with their brand. Third party data is often aggregated from different sources and sold to brands.

Shrenik Gandhi, chief executive and co-founder at digital agency White Rivers Media, said that given the increasingly aware users, companies must now adopt a transparent ‘zero party data’ (ZPD) approach under which a customer intentionally and proactively shares personal data with a brand.

“Currently, a majority of customers do not know how and why their data is being used by companies, creating ambiguity and mistrust, which needs to be addressed. Obviously, ZPD requires active effort and investment from advertisers, but it also results in much more effective campaigns," he added.

The problem is not advertisement per se but whether they are relevant and being a nuisance, said Shradha Agarwal, strategy head and chief operating officer, Grapes Digital, a digital-first agency.

“We need to educate customers about their own data and take their consent on whether they are comfortable being served relevant ads. To make the experience better, perhaps the number of times ads are shown can be limited, or if someone has already made a purchase, then they should not be targeted again. It has to become a two-way process," she added.

With Instagram and YouTube also testing ways to hide the number of likes and restrict comments to check online bullying, some brands have raised concerns about social media platforms doing away with public metrics, which are often seen as one of the benchmarks to assess the popularity and engagement of a digital campaign.

“I call such benchmarks ‘vanity metrics’, which are simple and take less effort. It could be a beginning of a relationship of a brand with its potential customer, but the real success of any campaign is whether it has led to real conversion in terms of ‘products added to cart’ or an actual sale of a product," said Gandhi.

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