Untangling the Web, Improving User Engagement

A major hot-button issue throughout all realms of the digital world is online privacy and the handling of personal information.   If you were to do a search for the term “web privacy” or “self-regulatory online advertising,” you would find no shortage of articles covering user apprehension about behavioral targeting or coverage on government proposed legislation governing online tracking.  Although some people choose to opt-out of targeted advertising altogether, many others are more receptive to the promotional messages directed at them as long as they are relevant and appropriate.  A growing group of users believe media consumers should open their mind to a new perspective on data sharing done right.  They posit that by letting intelligent businesses take a glance at your digital road map it enriches interactions and customizes your browsing experience.  These same individuals look to strengthen their argument by asking audiences the following question “Did you think it was a coincidence that you viewed an ad offering discounted prices on ink from Staples only minutes after you purchased a printer from their online shop?”  The question that really needs to be asked is “Did users find a targeted ad valuable or did they find it creepy?

Krux Digital CEO Tom Chavez recently published an intriguing article in which he cites a consumer survey that indicates 86% of American web users prefer “to actively control their online personas.”  From this discovery, one can conclude that when it comes to data collection the leading priority for most people is privacy.  Although discretion with data is their primary concern, many of these individuals are amenable to ad targeting as long as it meets one important condition: marketers must respect consumer information and create ads that best suit their audience members’ personal interests.

Some of the concern expressed by opponents of behavioral targeting stems from their frustration with poorly directed ads that fail to resonate with their interests and needs.  When hearing businesses and marketing buffs state their case for data collection, those on the other side of the fence reply by asking “Why am I bombarded by the ‘How to Lose Stubborn Belly Fat’ ads and other annoyances that add no value to my digital environment?”  When brands offer individuals a degree of control over how their data signature is leveraged, only then will the detractors begin to warm up to the idea of having their virtual footprints traced.

The biggest challenge to online marketers is to determine how to deliver value while simultaneously enabling user control as well as the other values laid out by the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) including education, transparency, data security, limitations on the collection of sensitive data, and accountability.  In order to promote overall preference for digital ads, industry players must instill a sense of trust in consumers and ensure them that their personal information will be used correctly for both the user and advertiser’s benefit.  The path to building this confidence lies in upholding DAA principles.  It starts with placement of the AdChoices icon on each ad to illustrate that marketers can play an integral role in the privacy discussion.  This simple measure provides enhanced notice to users letting them know that they can opt out of a marketer’s targeting activities at any point in their browsing experience.  The AdChoices tag can be easily implemented through DoubleVerify’s OBA Compliance Solution and will help guide marketers and consumers through a constantly shifting data sharing landscape.

Through OBA and resources such as the DoubleVerify Privacy Manager, web surfers have the ability to opt in or out of targeted ads and either embrace or ignore the conversations that brands are seeking to begin with them.  Though there will always be some that will continue to blindly opt-out of all targeting activities regardless of the quality of ad presented, businesses need only ask themselves what their audiences are seeking in advertisements to move the ball forward. Once they find the right answers, many will be encouraged by the online community’s increased willingness to enter into a significant dialogue and work toward more meaningful engagements.  To put it simply, and steal a line from a completely different type of web, “with great power (read: data) comes great responsibility.”

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