When raising awareness, go big or go home

Behavioural advertising regulations are a year old but data from TrustE shows increasing public concern about data privacy online. Awareness efforts might be improving, but not quickly enough.


Here’s one way of gauging how much impact awareness campaigns about personal data have. Straw poll: are you aware that today is Data Protection Day? I’m going to guess that, for most of you, the answer is no. And you’re a marketer, so how likely is it that the average lay consumer has any idea?

This is the struggle encountered by anyone who cares enough to try to explain to consumers why they should take note of how their data is used online. First of all, you need to get them to take an interest, then you’ve got to find a way to condense the turgid subject matter into something easily swallowed.

Unfortunately, TrustE’s research suggests industry attempts to do so aren’t having the positive impact that one might hope. The privacy management company says 89 per cent of Britons are worried about data privacy, 60 per cent of them more so than a year ago.
Of those, 60 per cent say the concern comes from companies sharing data with each other and 54 per cent say it is from behavioural ads. That’s more than double the number who say government spying is the cause.

The uncomfortable findings stand in contrast to the rosy view offered yesterday by the first annual report from the European Interactive Digital Advertising Alliance (EDAA). It gave a progress update on the voluntary actions being taken by the online ad industry to present ways for consumers to choose what ads they’re shown, and to inform them of their options. This activity began in earnest when the new self-regulatory framework for behavioural advertising was put in place a year ago.

Awareness-raising online ads have been seen by 26 million people in the UK, with 108,000 clicks through to the linked landing page, EDAA’s report claims. Clearly, this indicates substantial reach for the campaign, and it’s good that these ads are being seen. From personal experience I would add that the interface of the website where users can opt out of behavioural ads has become more intuitive over time.

The problem is that, given the results of TrustE’s research, the actions of EDAA’s members don’t seem to be as attention-grabbing or as urgent as they need to be in spreading understanding of consumers’ choices regarding behavioural advertising. Consumer perceptions are getting worse, not better.

Of course, online advertisers are bound to grumble that this is because of the scare stories in the national press, which paint all data-driven marketing as intrusive. But the industry isn’t allowed the luxury of self-pity. Its only option is to keep trying to improve people’s knowledge.

As with any awareness campaign, there’s one rule: go big or go home.

Do you have a great data case study from 2013 to shout about? Then why not enter the Marketing Week Engage Awards? Find full details at www.marketingweekawards.co.uk.



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